All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
20 06, 2015

Study Suggests Sixth Mass Extinction Phase

By | June 20th, 2015|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Educational Activities, Main Page, Teaching|1 Comment

Our Planet is Entering New Mass Extinction Phase

A team of international scientists based in the United States and Mexico have published a report declaring that a sixth mass extinction event is well under way and our species is running out of time to reverse this trend through conservation efforts.  Everything Dinosaur team members have written a number of articles on this blog about reports detailing the current rate of extinctions being recorded and the irreversible loss of ecosystems and biota.  This latest research takes a more conservative approach to calculating species loss than many earlier studies and this study focuses on the impact on vertebrates.  Even so, the team conclude that animals with back bones are becoming extinct more than 114 times faster than the “normal”, background extinction rate.

Scientists from Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Mexico, (Mexico), the University of California, Stanford University, Princeton University and the University of Florida state that the Earth is entering the sixth great mass extinction event, some sixty-five million years after the fifth mass extinction which ended the reign of the dinosaurs.

Report States This is the Greatest Extinction Phase Since the Demise of the Dinosaurs

Cataclysmic impact event that led to the extinction of the dinosaurs.

Cataclysmic impact event that led to the extinction of the dinosaurs.

Picture Credit: Don Davis commissioned by NASA

The fossil record suggests that there have been five major extinction events in the Phanerozoic Eon which represents the last 545 million years or so of our planet’s history.  The term Phanerozoic is derived from the Greek, for “visible life”, this reflects that the preserved fossilised remains of organisms become much more plentiful in rocks dated from 545 million years ago and younger.  Over this huge amount of time, there have always been extinctions.  Scientists are aware of the fact that there is a “background” level of extinction, but in this new research, the scientist report that amongst vertebrates the current trends suggest extinction rates 114 times faster than normal.

A Table Showing the Five Previous Mass Extinctions

Mass Extinction in Summary

Table Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Gerrado Ceballos, (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Mexico), lead author of the paper, that has just been published in the academic journal “Science Advances” commented:

“We are now entering the sixth great mass extinction event.  If it is allowed to continue, life would take many millions of years to recover and our species itself would likely disappear early on.”

The report concludes that since 1900, more than four hundred species of vertebrates have died out.  Such a loss would normally occur over 10,000 years if extinction rates were at the normal, background level.  The rapid loss of biodiversity is put down to the effect of an increasing human population on our planet.   The number of humans living on our planet is estimated to have been around 1.9 billion in 1900, today, the human population is estimated to be around 7.325 billion, an increase of 385% over the last one hundred and fifteen years.  The expansion of urban populations, pollution, loss of habitats, deforestation and climate change are some of the reasons for the dramatically increasing loss of vertebrates according to the paper’s authors.

With the disappearance of key vertebrate species from an ecosystem, the other components such as insects and plant life will also be affected.   The report states that beneficial insects such as pollinating bees could be lost to humanity within three human generations.  The loss of these pollinators would have a huge impact on human food resources and place our own species Homo sapiens very much under threat.

To read an article written in 2014 about potential mass extinctions: Heading for a Sixth Mass Extinction?

The number of global mass extinction events preserved in the fossil record has been challenged recently.  Back in April of this year, Everything Dinosaur reported on a new study that suggested that there had been an additional, major extinction event around 260 million years ago in the Permian geological period.  This extinction phase preceded the End Permian extinction event that is believed to be the most devastating extinction known from the Phanerozoic.  Some 95% of all life is believed to have died out.

To find out more: A Sixth Mass Extinction Event?

19 06, 2015

Woman Killed by Rock Fall at Popular Fossil Hunting Location

By | June 19th, 2015|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page, Press Releases|0 Comments

Fatal Accident at Llantwit Major (South Wales)

A twenty-four year old woman has been killed after a rock fell on her at Llantwit Major, Vale of Glamorgan (South Wales).  The accident happened yesterday evening and emergency services were called to this popular walking and fossil hunting location just before 5.30pm. A spokesperson for the Welsh ambulance service stated that they had received a report of an incident where a rock from the cliffs had fallen on a person’s head.  Unfortunately, the impact proved fatal and the woman was pronounced dead at the scene.  The cliffs are extremely dangerous and there are numerous signs posted up along the beach warning visitors of the potential hazards.

Very Dangerous Cliffs along the Welsh Coast

Rock falls are a constant hazard.

Rock falls are a constant hazard.

Picture Credit: UK Fossils Network

Each year, the beautiful beaches to be found in this part of south Wales attract thousands of visitors, many of whom are keen to explore the area looking for fossils.  There are a lot of different types of fossil to be found, including giant Gastropods and numerous bivalves.  Occasionally, vertebrate fossils can be discovered, fish scales and teeth as well as isolated bones from marine reptiles.  The blue lias rocks date from the Early Jurassic and they are approximately 200 million years old.

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur stated:

“This is very sad news.  We will soon be at the height of the holiday season with thousands of tourists flocking to locations such as the Vale of Glamorgan, Ravenscar and the Dorset coast.  However, many of the cliffs at these places which are so popular with tourists, are extremely dangerous.  Rock falls and land slips are very common around the Lyme Regis and Charmouth areas for example and we urge all visitors to heed the warning signs and to stay away from cliffs.”

 Back in 2012, Everything Dinosaur reported on a fatal accident that took place at Hive Beach (near Bridport, Dorset), this latest terrible incident demonstrates that care and precaution must be taken at all times and visitors to locations such as Llantwit Major are urged to stay clear of the cliffs.

If you are looking for fossils, Everything Dinosaur advises that visitors limit their searches to the rocks along the foreshore and the shales exposed on the beach away from the cliffs.  Fossils are being constantly eroded onto the beach and there are always plenty of specimens to find.

Our team members are happy to provide advice and guidance to fossil hunters, in addition, we wrote an article a few years ago now that provided hints and safety tips for fossil hunters.

To read Everything Dinosaur’s tips on safe fossil collecting: Fossil Collecting Code – Safety Tips

The accident occurred just a few miles to the west of Lavernock Point, it was at Lavernock Point that the fossilised remains of an Early Jurassic meat-eating dinosaur were discovered in 2014.   These fossils have just been put on display at the National Museum of Wales.  This exceptional fossil find might persuade more people to visit these sites along the Welsh side of the Bristol Channel, whilst fossil hunting can be a wonderful hobby, all the team members at Everything Dinosaur strongly urge that visitors take great care and that they do not approach the cliffs. No fossil collecting should be attempted from the cliffs themselves or any adjacent scree slopes.

19 06, 2015

Papo Velociraptors Claim to Fame

By | June 19th, 2015|Dinosaur Fans, Movie Reviews and Movie News, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products, Press Releases|0 Comments

“Jurassic World Raptors” and the Papo Velociraptor Replica

Some of the most exciting scenes in the record breaking dinosaur movie “Jurassic World” involve the pack of “raptors” and the various chase scenes.  Velociraptors, at least over-sized ones anyway, have been a mainstay of the “Jurassic Park” franchise, ever since the first film came out way back in 1993.  Pack hunting and some form of social behaviour has been ascribed to these types of dinosaurs, which as members of the Dromaeosauridae (swift lizards) family, are closely related to modern birds.  In reality, the two species of Velociraptor described to date were much smaller than their movie counterparts, but even so, they would very probably have been aggressive animals and formidable hunters, much feared by even the largest of the herbivores that shared their Asian habitat towards the end of the Cretaceous period.

Which Dinosaur Model Most Closely Resembles the Movie Raptors?

This accolade, we think, goes to Papo for their Velociraptor replica.  The Theropod dinosaurs in “Jurassic World” have been criticised for not reflecting some of the latest thinking with regards to meat-eating dinosaurs. For example, there is an absence of feathers and many palaeontologists now think that the majority of the Theropoda were at least partially feathered.  The Papo Velociraptor dinosaur model is also not feathered.

Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and a Velociraptor

The Papo Velociraptor model closely resembles the "Jurassic World" Velociraptors.

The Papo Velociraptor model closely resembles the “Jurassic World” Velociraptors.

Picture Credit: Universal Studios with additional material from Everything Dinosaur

Papo, the French model and figure manufacturer, has built up a strong reputation for its excellent replicas.  The company’s dinosaur model range was believed to have been inspired by the first film, “Jurassic Park” that was released in 1993.  The current range consists of over thirty different prehistoric animal models.

To view the full Papo prehistoric animal model range: Papo Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Animal Models

In the film, animal trailer turned dinosaur behaviourist Owen Grady, played by Chris Pratt, leads a pack of Velociraptors, describing himself as the “alpha” member of the pack, Owen is able to exercise some degree of control over the actions of his dinosaurs.  How much control..?  Well, that would be giving away details of the plot and since not all our readers have seen the film yet, we shall say no more.

18 06, 2015

Fake Reviews Misleading Potential Customers

By | June 18th, 2015|Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page, Press Releases|0 Comments

Genuine Reviews from Teachers after Dinosaur Workshops

This week there have been a number of reports commissioned that focus on the allegations over the publishing of fake and misleading reviews on retailing websites.  In a survey carried out by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), some 54% of the adults questioned revealed that they relied on reviews that had been posted up on websites and that many respondents found them invaluable.  Third party testimonials, posted up feedback and customer reviews are a very helpful source of information.  Visitors to a website can read the comments and other information posted and this does affect their purchasing decisions.

It is important that customers can feel confident about the information in reviews, that these reviews have been provided by genuine customers, whether it be a service or product purchased.  There have also been a number of allegations made of people “blackmailing” businesses with threats to leave very negative reviews in order to obtain a benefit such as a discount.  In addition, many of the reviews that are posted up are often paid for, examples of which are Tweets from innovators and celebrities endorsing a product, or favourable blog articles singing the praises of a company.  Some of these blog posts endorsing a firm or its goods and services do state within the article that this is a paid for posting, whilst others do not.  The CMA has launched an investigation into several companies, as the use of paid for endorsements without a clear admission of payment may be unlawful.

Everything Dinosaur team members would like to reassure readers that every review posted up on its websites is genuine.  The reviews, feedback and comments we receive are from our customers or, as is the case on our dinosaur workshops in school website, from teachers or senior management from an organisation that has had one of our dinosaur themed workshops.

Review Given to Everything Dinosaur from Year 1 Teacher

Every review posted is genuine feedback from a member of the teaching team.

Every review posted is genuine feedback from a member of the teaching team.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

 Take for example, the image above.  This is our latest review, teaching feedback given to us after a dinosaur workshop with a class of Year 1 children.  We have removed the teacher’s surname and email address in order to compile with our own online publishing policy in terms of protecting an individual’s privacy.  The teacher even took the trouble to colour in the stars as she awarded as “five stars” for our dinosaur workshop.

Nikki (the teacher), stated:

“Fantastic knowledge of dinosaurs, very interactive.  Children thoroughly enjoyed it!  Great workshop. Thank you.”

Thank you Nikki, your comments are greatly appreciated.  We log all our feedback, comments, reviews and such like.  Teaching feedback for example, is stored so that we can use this information to help improve our service to schools and to demonstrate to STEM/STEMNET (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths – Network) how we have feedback loops built into our training to help promote continuous development.

Nisha Arora, Senior Director at the CMA, commented to the BBC:

“We are committed to ensuring that consumers’ trust in these important information tools is maintained.  We will take enforcement action where necessary to tackle unlawful practices.”

Facebook “likes” are another area of concern.  We know of a number of companies who have purchased thousands of likes to help boost the profile of the Facebook pages and in turn, their own brand/web presence.  Facebook, claims to have cracked down on this practice but there are still many examples on this social media platform.

Sue Judd, the Finance Director of Everything Dinosaur stated:

“A huge, international business has sprung up in the last few years all aimed at helping to promote companies, boost brands and endorse products.  At Everything Dinosaur, we pride ourselves in publishing genuine feedback, reviews and comments and we would never knowingly post up information such as fake reviews and endorsements.”

The CMA estimates that some £23 billion (GBP) a year of consumer spending was potentially influenced by online reviews.  So called “astroturfing”, the practice of creating fake grass root reviews can lead to big rewards for unscrupulous businesses.  There have also been reports made about businesses writing fake reviews of themselves to boost their ratings on review sites and even some examples of firms writing or commissioning fake negative reviews to undermine rivals, for malicious reasons or for personal gain.

Purchased Facebook “Likes”

Customers can gain some understanding of the practices employed by examining the business profiles of companies on Facebook.  If an organisation suddenly has hundreds or even thousands more “likes”, then this could be an example of purchased likes being added to the business profile.  Although, as site managers aim to get on top of this problem, the firms and individuals behind such practices are getting smarter.  Rather than post up huge numbers of “likes” in a short period, contracts are drawn up whereby dozens and dozens of fake “likes” are posted up over a period of several weeks.  These trends are more difficult for administrators and site security watchdogs to spot.

Everything Dinosaur currently has around 2,020 Facebook “likes”, this number has been steadily rising since the Facebook page was launched.

Everything Dinosaur’s Reviews – The Numbers

Here is a list of the numbers of published reviews from customers posted up on Everything Dinosaur’s websites:

  • 1,286 customer reviews on Everything Dinosaur’s website – Everything Dinosaur Sadly, we were not able to transfer the many thousands of reviews that had been posted up previously when we transferred website servers.
  • 2,020 Facebook “likes”
  • 57 dinosaur workshop reviews since this site went live at the end of August 2014.  See the reviews here: Dinosaur Workshops in Schools

Recently, social media sites such as Facebook have introduced a number of enhancements.  For instance, visitors to a company’s Facebook page can get an insight into the firm’s responsiveness if the site displays a logo (found under the Page’s cover photo) that states that this firm is very responsive to messages.  To qualify a Page must have done both of the following over the previous 7 days:

  1. Responded to 90% of messages
  2. Maintained a median response time of five minutes for all replies sent

These are quite tough, especially when you consider the global nature of a business such as ours.  We do our best to respond quickly, but messages sent from Australia could arrive when all our team members are tucked up in bed.  Everything Dinosaur confidently predicts that very soon (if not already), a number of dubious practices will be offered by various individuals/companies to provide a false impression of a firm’s responsiveness.

17 06, 2015

Thank You for All the Dinosaur Pictures

By | June 17th, 2015|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal Drawings, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Lots of Dinosaur Pictures Sent to Everything Dinosaur

Just time to say a very big thank you to all the dinosaur fans and budding fossil collectors that have sent in prehistoric animal pictures.  We do look at every single one that we receive and we are humbled when we get so many sent into us.  We know that a lot of schools have been teaching dinosaur themed topics during the latter part of the spring term and for the first part of the summer term, as a result, we have been very busy visiting schools and we have seen some wonderful examples of artwork as well as inspiring the next generation of palaeoartists to send in their pictures to Everything Dinosaur.

A Pink Stegosaurus (Very Colourful)

A very colourful pink plant-eating dinosaur.

A very colourful pink plant-eating dinosaur.

Picture Credit: Enan

We have posted up a large number of the illustrations on our warehouse notice boards, others have been put up on the office walls, they certainly cheer the place up.  Lots and lots of brightly coloured prehistoric animals such as this very pink Stegosaurus drawn by Enan, aged 4.  His mum says that Stegosaurus is his favourite dinosaur (for the moment), but he does tend to change quite frequently and he likes to tell his parents about his dinosaur models and to explain which ones ate plants and which ones ate meat.  Well done, Enan.

Hopefully, we will have time to post up more examples, on our social media pages and of course on the Everything Dinosaur blog.

16 06, 2015

Extreme Equatorial Climates Slowed the Rise of the Dinosaurs

By | June 16th, 2015|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Geology, Main Page|0 Comments

Climate of the Tropics too Unstable for the Dinosaurs to Dominant in the Late Triassic

The vast majority of the reptile species found today are confined to the tropics.  However, a new study undertaken by an international team of researchers suggests that during the Late Triassic as one group of reptiles came to dominate the land, the dinosaurs, they struggled to gain a foothold in the tropics due to extreme climate fluctuations.  Dramatic swings in the equatorial climate from wet and humid to extremely hot and dry checked the evolutionary development of the Dinosauria.  Such conditions may be repeated in equatorial regions in the very near future due to increased amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere as a result of global warming.  What slowed the rise of the dinosaurs, could provide our species Homo sapiens with a viable model of what lies in store for us.

The Flora and Fauna of the Late Triassic (Ghost Ranch, New Mexico)

Dramatic climate changes from very wet to very dry conditions limited the range of large, herbivorous dinosaurs.

Dramatic climate changes from very wet to very dry conditions limited the range of large, herbivorous dinosaurs.

Picture Credit: Victor Leshyk

The picture above shows a typical scene representing the flora and fauna of the Late Triassic (Ghost Ranch, New Mexico).  Thick forests of primitive ,drought resistant conifers, araucaria, redwoods and podocarps dominate the landscape.  Armoured Aetosaurs (foreground and background) would have grazed upon ferns, club mosses and horsetails, whilst Phytosaurs, which superficially resemble modern-day crocodiles, would have hunted small animals and mammal-like reptiles.  The vast majority of dinosaur fossils associated with the Ghost Ranch location (Chinle Formation), relate to small, Theropod dinosaurs.

Late Triassic Equatorial Dinosaur Puzzle

What has troubled the curiosity of palaeontologists, is why so very little evidence of larger plant-eating dinosaurs have been found in rock formations that represent deposits laid down close to the Equator?  The first dinosaurs might have evolved some 240 million years ago, perhaps slightly earlier.  Although, the fossil record is far from complete, it is likely the first dinosaurs lived in the southern hemisphere.  Over the next thirty million years or so, the Dinosauria gradually diversified and spread.  At this time in our planet’s history, most of the landmasses were joined together to form a single, super-sized land mass (Pangaea or Pangea).  Fossils of Sauropodomorphs have been found in Late Triassic strata from northerly as well as southerly latitudes but very few fossils of big, herbivorous dinosaurs have been found from locations that would have been close to the Equator.  Small-bodied, meat-eaters are found, although they do not make up a huge proportion of the total fauna, least not until the latter stages of the Triassic, but there is very little evidence to suggest the presence of large, plant-eating Sauropodomorphs.

To read about the recent discovery of a new type of meat-eating, Therpod dinosaur from the south-western United States: New Theropod Dinosaur Discovery Provides Evidence of Meat-Eating Dinosaur Diversification

A Map of the World in the Late Triassic

The position of the continents during the Late Triassic.

The position of the continents during the Late Triassic.

Picture Credit: North Arizona University with additional annotations by Everything Dinosaur

The map shows the approximate location of the Ghost Ranch site (New Mexico, USA), which during the Late Triassic lay close to the Equator.

To help understand the why certain types of dinosaur may have struggled to survive in the tropics, an international team of scientists, including researchers from the University of Southampton, have created a remarkably detailed picture of the ecology and climate of the famous Ghost Ranch fossil site (New Mexico).  The colourful rock layers preserved in this part of south-western United States represent a series of continental deposits, consisting mainly of sandstones and shales.  They date mostly from the Late Triassic (Carnian and Norian faunal stages).  The research team sampled different layers and used these samples to identify microscopic trace fossils such as plant pollen and fern spores.  This provided the researchers with some understanding of the changing plant populations over time.  This data was correlated with the work of organic geochemist Jessica Whiteside (Southampton University), who analysed carbon isotopes preserved in the rocks. Dr. Whiteside identified repeated highs and lows in the amount of “heavy” carbon-13 that was recorded, signs of major changes in the ecology of the area over time.  These peaks and troughs lined up with changes in the composition of the fossil pollen and fern spores preserved  This suggests that there were wild and dramatic climate swings leading to a flipping of floras, between a dominance of water loving species suited to a humid, warm and wet environment and those species that thrived when the climate became much more arid.

Dr. Whiteside Taking Samples for Isotope Analysis

Researchers Jessica Whiteside and Maria Dunlavey taking rock samples for analysis of the isotopic signature of organic carbon at Ghost Ranch, New Mexico. These data help reconstruct ecosystem productivity and environmental changes in the Triassic.

Researchers Jessica Whiteside and Maria Dunlavey taking rock samples for analysis of the isotopic signature of organic carbon at Ghost Ranch, New Mexico. These data help reconstruct ecosystem productivity and environmental changes in the Triassic.

Picture Credit: Randall Irmis

Commenting on the implications of this part of the study, Dr. Whiteside stated that this see-sawing between wet and dry environments occurred as atmospheric carbon dioxide levels rose from around 1,200 part per million in the oldest rocks sampled up to 2,400 parts per million in the youngest rocks included in the study.  These levels are well in excess of the current CO2 levels in our atmosphere (400 parts per million), but as global warming occurs and the amount of green house gases like carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increases, then we too, are likely to experience much more extremes in world weather.

Ian Glasspool, a specialist in studying ancient plant remains, examined the layers of charcoal that could be found in those sediments associated with the drier, hotter climate.  These are the remains of trees that were caught up in forest fires that periodically swept through this part of the world in the Late Triassic.  He measured the reflectiveness of the charcoal to estimate the intensity of the wildfires that had occurred.  The suggestion is that, the greater the amount of fuel available for a fire to consume, then the greater the heat generated.  The biomass available to burn would be directly related to dry conditions, the drier the climate the greater likelihood of very hot forest fires due to the presence of so much combustible material.

The evidence from the charcoal samples support the idea of a tropical climate swinging violently from extremes.  Severe droughts and forest fires would have continually reshaped the vegetation available for plant-eating dinosaurs.  Perhaps the large bodied, Sauropodomorphs, with their much greater food demands compared to other plant-eating reptiles, were not able to cope with the changes in the flora.

 The Field Team Excavating Vertebrate Fossils

A field team excavating vertebrate fossil remains (Ghost Ranch).

A field team excavating vertebrate fossil remains (Ghost Ranch).

Picture Credit: Randall Irmis

Note the clearly defined bands of different rocks which is a hall mark of the Chinle Formation.  The layers represent different deposition environments, the red sandstones are coloured due to the amount of iron minerals that they contain.  In the published academic paper that outlines this research, the scientists conclude that extreme climate fluctuation led to ecosystem instability in the tropics, which in turn suppressed the rise of the large, plant-eating dinosaurs in these regions.

Warm-Blooded versus Cold-Blooded

This new study may go some way to explain why fossils of small Theropod dinosaurs are found amongst the vertebrate fossil assemblage, but the remains of large Sauropodomorphs are extremely rare.  Although this new research provides a fascinating insight into an prehistoric ecosystem, it throws up some intriguing but controversial ideas.  The scientists postulate that these extreme climates prevented large, active, warm-blooded herbivorous dinosaurs from becoming established in sub-tropical low latitudes until much later in the Mesozoic.  It is suggested that the higher metabolic rates of plant-eating dinosaurs which were endothermic or had a form of endothermy (warm-bloodedness), prevented them from getting a foothold.  They would have needed greater amounts of food to sustain them when compared to the other types of, presumably, cold-blooded reptile that did live in those regions.  The debate over dinosaur metabolism is not resolved and even if the majority of the Dinosauria were endothermic or even mesothermic (a combination of cold-blooded and warm-blooded features), the early long-necked dinosaurs and their descendants, the Sauropoda, may have been entirely ectothermic.

The Femur of a Small Meat-Eating Theropod Dinosaur Excavated by the Researchers

A fossilised dinosaur thigh bone (Ghost Ranch), only small dinosaurs were present close to the Equator.

A fossilised dinosaur thigh bone (Ghost Ranch), only small dinosaurs were present close to the Equator.

Picture Credit: Randall Irmis

The small scribe provides a simple scale.  The distal end of the femur is towards the left of the photograph.

To read a short article about another early meat-eating dinosaur from the Ghost Ranch site: Buck Toothed Vicious Dinosaur Daemonosaurus chauliodus

15 06, 2015

“Jurassic World” in Record Weekend

By | June 15th, 2015|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Movie Reviews and Movie News, Press Releases|0 Comments

$511 Million USD in Cinema Ticket Sales in a Weekend for Jurassic World

“Jurassic World” directed by Colin Trevorrow and co-produced by Steven Spielberg has become the first film in history to take more than $500 million dollars (USD) at the box office on its opening weekend.  The film, the fourth in the Jurassic Park franchise, had been scheduled for release in the summer of 2014, but script issues and filming delays put back the release of the movie.  Any doubts the executives at Universal Studios had about “Jurassic World” were very quickly dispelled as advance ticket sales for the opening weekend had hinted that the lure of genetically engineered dinosaurs was going to result in huge financial rewards for the studio.

“Jurassic World” Opened Globally to Record Box Office Ticket Sales

Global success for dinosaur themed block-buster.

Global success for dinosaur themed block-buster.

Picture Credit: Getty Images

The film was the most popular screening in all sixty-six countries where it was released over  the weekend.  In the United States it took some $204 million dollars (USD), box office receipts in China are estimated to have exceeded $100 million (USD), whilst in the United Kingdom and Ireland ticket sales were around the $30 million (USD) mark.  According to media reports, the success of “Jurassic World” in America makes it the second highest grossing opening weekend for a film in the United States (the record is held by the 2012 release of Marvel’s “The Avengers” which took $207.4 million (USD) in its first weekend.

A Monster Hit in the Cinemas

Huge Mosasaur about to tackle "jaws".

Huge Mosasaur about to tackle “jaws”.

Picture Credit: Universal Studios

 Global box office ticket sales have been estimated at around the $511.8 million dollars mark (USD), that equates to approximately  £325 million (GBP), even the giant Masrani conglomerate, the fictitious global concern that supposedly owns the theme park where the movie is set, would be impressed with sales figures such as these.

The first “Jurassic Park” film was released in 1993.  Everything Dinosaur team members think that this first movie (for the time being), remains Universal Studio’s highest grossing film ever, with over $921 million (USD) generated at the box office worldwide.  This figure was further boosted by cinema receipts from the twentieth anniversary edition released in 2013.  To put these cinema sales into context, the top grossing film in the United States and Canada last year (box office receipts), was “Guardians of the Galaxy which took some $333.1 million (USD), “Jurassic World” achieved over sixty percent of this sales figure in just its opening weekend.  “Guardians of the Galaxy” starred Chris Pratt, who plays Owen Grady, the Velociraptor behaviourist turned hero of “Jurassic World”.

People Just Love Dinosaurs

What does all this mean?  Put simply, people just love dinosaurs and the bigger and fiercer they are the better.  Perhaps this film will inspire the next generation of scientists, a spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur commented:

“Jurassic World, was always going to be a huge success in all likelihood.  The film puts people and dinosaurs together and that is a winning combination that has been proved time and time again throughout cinema history.”

A Sequel?

The success of the film does not just mean a rekindling of our love affair with summer block-busters, it also virtually guarantees that the “Jurassic Park” franchise will continue.  Everything Dinosaur team members predict that there will be a sequel, expect announcements soon and a cinema release of maybe late 2017.

Team members try to make annual predictions about dinosaur discoveries, fossil finds and likely events related to palaeontology at the beginning of each year.  Our first prediction for 2015, was a real no-brainer, we confidently stated that “Jurassic World” was going to be a huge success!

To read Everything Dinosaur’s full list of palaeontology predictions for 2015: Everything Dinosaur’s Predictions 2015

To visit Everything Dinosaur’s website: Everything Dinosaur

14 06, 2015

Apatosaurus Illustration

By | June 14th, 2015|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page, Press Releases|0 Comments

A Young Apatosaurus is Sketched

To reflect the recently published scientific paper that summarised the re-evaluation of the Apatosaurinae, that sub-family of diplodocid Sauropods, that led to the re-establishment of the genus Brontosaurus, team members at Everything Dinosaur have commissioned a new illustration of one of these long-necked dinosaurs.  Brontosaurus means “thunder lizard”, an apt description for this type of dinosaur, one that could have weighed as much as twenty-five tonnes and measured as long as a tennis court (B. excelsus).  Long-necked dinosaurs are extremely popular amongst adults and youngsters and we do get asked a lot of questions about these types of prehistoric animals when we visit schools, from the teachers as well as the children.

For further information: Is Brontosaurus Back?

An Illustration of Apatosaurus, or is it Brontosaurus?

Or is it a Brontosaurus?

Or is it a Brontosaurus?

Picture Credit: Mike Fredericks/Everything Dinosaur

We will probably use this new illustration to make a scale drawing for our dinosaur fact sheets.  We research and write a fact sheet for every named prehistoric animal item that Everything Dinosaur supplies.  We have hundreds of these fact sheets and we do supply them to schools and to home education groups to help teachers and parents.  More drawings will be commissioned shortly, the majority of these will be for new model introductions.  We can’t say too much about this just yet, further information will be made available at the end of the year.  What we can say is that there are going to be some very exciting new models in 2016.

To view Everything Dinosaur’s existing model range, including Apatosaurus models: Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal Models

13 06, 2015

Valley of the Whales – Basilosaurus Fossil Discovery

By | June 13th, 2015|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Scientists Study Nearly Complete Basilosaurus Fossil 

Egypt’s “Valley of the Whales” has proved to be a very happy hunting ground as a team of scientists announce the discovery of the most complete skeleton of the ancient whale known as Basilosaurus ever found.  The skeleton, believed to be around forty million years old, measures eighteen metres in length.  A second whale fossil has also been discovered in the body cavity of the leviathan, at this early stage, scientists are unsure whether these bones represent the last meal of the Basilosaurus or perhaps its unborn young.  The giant whale was the apex predator in the shallow sea, a remnant of the mighty Tethys Ocean, that once covered this part of the world during the Eocene Epoch.  Fossils of crustaceans and a number of fish species have also been discovered at the site.  In addition, the discovery of several large shark teeth indicate the Basilosaurus corpse may have been scavenged prior to its burial.

Researchers Carefully Excavating the Nearly Perfectly Articulated Basilosaurus Fossil

The remains of the skull are nearest the camera.

The remains of the skull are nearest the camera.

Picture Credit: Egyptian Ministry of the Environment

 Basilosaurus was an early type of toothed whale.  It is descended from a group of terrestrial carnivores, the Mesonychians.  Two species have been described to date and this specimen represents one of the largest found in the Fayum deposits south-west of Cairo.  The fossil material comes from one of the most important Cenozoic-aged fossil sites in the world, the Wadi Al-Hitan (Whale Valley), a region of the Western Desert of Egypt, which contains the remains of the earliest types of ancient whales (Archaeoceti), scientists are able to trace from these fossils the last stages of Cetacean limb evolution, in which the hind limbs were eventually lost.  Wadi Al-Hitan has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 2005.  It provides a unique insight into an ecosystem dominated by shallow waters and mangrove swamps that existed  along the northern coast of Africa and into what is now, the Sahara Desert.

A Model of the Fearsome Marine Predator Basilosaurus

One of the ancient sea creatures featured in the Prehistoric Sealife Toob

One of the ancient sea creatures featured in the Prehistoric Sealife Toob

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Basilosaurus featured in the BBC television series “Walking with Beasts”, a follow up to the hugely successful 1999 “Walking with Dinosaurs”.  Episode Two was entitled “Whale Killer” and told the story of a female Basilosaurus as she struggles to find food and find somewhere safe to give birth.  As a result of this media exposure, Everything Dinosaur does receive requests for information about this early whale from time to time.  In terms of models, a Basilosaurus is featured in the “Prehistoric Sealife Toob” manufactured by Safari Ltd.  It is one of ten models in this model set.

To see the range of Safari Ltd models supplied by Everything Dinosaur, including the Prehistoric Sealife Toob: Carnegie Dinosaur Toys and Models

To read Everything Dinosaur’s review of the Safari Ltd Prehistoric Sealife Toob: Prehistoric Sealife Toob Reviewed

It is hoped that this new fossil discovery can help solve one of the enduring mysteries associated with Basilosaurus.  The very long and serpentine shape of Basilosaurus (the name means “King Reptile”), has presented anatomists and vertebrae palaeontologists with a bit of a puzzle.  The distal caudal vertebrae are compressed in a very similar way to those seen in animals with a tail fluke.  However, having the tail fluke at the very end of a long, sinuous tail (as in the model above), would have given this marine mammal quite an awkward and inefficient swimming action.  With a complete specimen of the tail bones to study, it is hoped that these fossils will provide more information on early Cetacean locomotion.

A Close up of the Preserved Skull and Jaws of Basilosaurus

Basilosaurus skull excavation.

Basilosaurus skull excavation.

Picture Credit: Egyptian Ministry of the Environment

12 06, 2015

Fibres and Cellular Structures Observed in Dinosaur Fossils

By | June 12th, 2015|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

Soft Tissue Preservation in Late Cretaceous Dinosaur Bones

When Everything Dinosaur team members were first informed of a paper being published that reported on “blood cells and soft tissue” having been discovered in dinosaur fossils the day before the film “Jurassic World ” was released, there was some scepticism around the office.  Amid the inevitably lurid and rather dramatic headlines which have been seen in some publications we thought it a good idea to try to put this fascinating piece of research into a wider context.  The study was undertaken by scientists at the Imperial College London, their findings were published in the academic journal “Nature Communications”, it is not going to herald the establishment of a number of genetically engineered dinosaur themed safari parks, but it does suggest that even poorly preserved body fossils may contain more than just permineralised materials.

Bones and Teeth Alone are Not Enough

Most of what we have learned about the Dinosauria has been gained from studying their bones and teeth.  Trace fossils too have proved useful, even permitting researchers to speculate on behaviours such as social groupings and pack hunting, but if traces of soft tissue could be analysed, then our understanding could move forward exponentially.  Such a study could provide valuable insights into dinosaur physiology, it would for example, provide strong evidence with regards to the endothermy versus ectothermy debate (warm-blooded versus cold-blooded).  Importantly, the link between the Coelurosauria and birds could be established beyond doubt.  In short, it could be proved that the Robin perched on your bird table is indeed a distant relative of Tyrannosaurus rex.

Dr. Susannah Maidment One of the Authors of the Study Holding a Stegosaurus Skull Cast

Dr Susannah Maidment, one of the authors of the study holding a cast of a Stegosaurus skull.

Dr Susannah Maidment, one of the authors of the study holding a cast of a Stegosaurus skull.

Picture Credit: Laurent Mekul

A point that we frequently make is that dinosaur biology remains very much a mystery.  What we have learned has come about through some very remarkable research that utilises techniques and scientific methods that were undreamed of even a few years ago.  It is the collaboration between different scientific disciplines that is providing so much new information on dinosaurs and other extinct creatures.  The use of computerised tomography (CT), for example, has enabled palaeontologists to explore the three-dimensional structures of fossil bone, even when it has been embedded in extremely dense rock.  In this study, samples from eight dinosaur bone specimens were subjected to scanning electron microscopy (SEM) to provide exquisite images of the fossil structures in minute detail.  A number of samples were studied using a focused ion beam  (FIB), an imaging and resolution technology more at home in a materials science lab but now finding an increasing number of applications in other scientific areas of enquiry including vertebrate palaeontology.  It is the adoption and application of different scientific methods, drawn from a whole variety of research fields that is enabling academics to make some remarkable discoveries, shedding light, or in this case electrons and ions on those most enigmatic of extinct creatures – the dinosaurs.

Any Old Fossils?

The novel approach undertaken by the Imperial College scientists sets up an intriguing possibility, one that allows us to use an analogy from the “Jurassic Park” franchise  to explain.  The eight fossils used in this study came from the Natural History Museum (London), which is conveniently located just a few hundred metres away from the College.  Specifically the fossils come from two collections at the Museum, all of them relate to Late Cretaceous dinosaur fossil material from North America (Dinosaur Provincial Park and Lance Formations respectively).  The fossils studied represent a claw bone from an unknown species of meat-eating dinosaur, a partial rib from an indeterminate duck-billed dinosaur and other bits and pieces of assorted dinosaur that would not have got a second glance had they been on display.  That’s the point.  Evidence for soft tissue preservation in a number of vertebrate fossils have been reported before, even in the Dinosauria.  This area is not without controversy, but here evidence has been presented for the potential preservation of organic remains from reptiles that died more than seventy million years ago.

Dinosaur Claw Bone used in the Study

Manual ungual (dinosaur claw) from an unknown species of Theropod used in the Imperial College London study.

Manual ungual (dinosaur claw) from an unknown species of Theropod used in the Imperial College London study.

Picture Credit: Laurent Mekul

If these fragments of fossils can possibly contain proteins and other biological structures, then maybe, just maybe there is a lot more preserved within the fossil record – we just have not been looking for it.

Jurassic Park

Let’s use that “Jurassic Park” analogy to look at this intriguing aspect further.  In the original book, written by Michael Crichton and published in 1990, the InGen scientists (the team behind the creation of various dinosaurs using DNA recovered from blood-sucking insects preserved in amber, mixed with amphibian genetic material and so forth), come up with what they think to be an infallible method of ensuring that all their engineered dinosaurs stay on their island home.  Each animal’s position is tracked and movements can be recorded using a simple receiver.  With three hundred dinosaurs on the preserve, it is just a case of asking the software that tracks the animals’ comings and goings to find three hundred dinosaurs.  Every day without fail, when asked, the computer read out states that there are three hundred dinosaurs on the island.  The flaw in this safety precaution is pointed out by Dr. Ian Malcolm, a mathematician who has been brought to the resort in order to validate it prior to the park opening to the public.  The good doctor, asks the computer programme to find three hundred and one dinosaurs, and sure enough the software reports on that number.  Dr. Malcolm continues to interrogate the team behind the computer programme asking repeatedly for the software to detect more and more dinosaurs.  The doctor, a  specialist in Chaos Theory, had predicted that the biological preserve would fail “nature finds a way” as he so eloquently states in the film.  Despite the entire dinosaur population starting out as female, the animals had started to breed and that was why there were more dinosaurs recorded than expected.

Just like in the example above, scientists may have been asking the wrong questions.  Soft tissue preserved in the fossil record of long extinct creatures might be more common than previously thought.  Similar structures have been observed before, but for most of the time, the research was focused on investigating the range of criteria that were believed to have existed to have led to the preservation of organic remains, these specimens were treated as the exception – could they be the norm?

Caution Advised

Tiny egg-like shapes identified deep within a dinosaur claw bone that have a resemblance to red blood cells, certainly deserve further analysis and investigation.  Admittedly, the red and green images of the structures with the different colours reflecting varying material densities can be confusing, after all, if a lay person reads a headline in a magazine stating that dinosaur blood may have been found and sees a picture covered in red, he or she may jump to one very obvious conclusion.  Mass spectrometry analysis, another relatively recent addition to the palaeontologist’s ever increasing technical armoury, this time from the laboratory of an analytical chemist, threw up tantalising results when the red blood cell-like materials were scrutinised.  Four different regions from the same fossilised Theropod claw were compared to the mass spectrometry report for Emu blood.  The resulting data suggested that there were indeed chemical similarities.  If this really is some form of preserved, (although quite probably severely degraded), remnant of a Theropod dinosaur’s blood then, as Ratites such as the Emu are believed to be closely related to the Theropoda then similar mass spectrometry results could be anticipated.

Potential Evidence of Preserved Red Blood Cells in Dinosaur Bone

Evidence of potential red blood cells preserved in 75 million year old dinosaur bone.

Evidence of potential red blood cells preserved in 75 million year old dinosaur bone.

Picture Credit: Laurent Mekul

Microscopic Fibres – More Caution Advised

Fibres or fibrous-like structures were reported from half the samples studied.  In one specimen, a fragment of rib bone from an unknown dinosaur revealed a structure within it that resembled collagen.  Further chemical analysis revealed traces of amino acid fragments such as glycine, alanine and proline.  This is consistent what you would expect to find if you were analysing collagen.  If a fragment of collagen could be recovered, then that would be a remarkable discovery indeed.  Like blood and other organic materials these substances are believed to degrade relatively quickly after death.  However, if a protein based structure like collagen could be found in the fossilised bones of a dinosaur then this would open up an entirely new area of research into the Dinosauria.

Potential Collagen Structures Preserved in Fossil Bone

Fibrous structures preserved in fossilised bone.

Fibrous structures preserved in fossilised bone.

Picture Credit: Laurent Mekul

The scientists behind this paper are keen to point out that further study is required.  Two of the fossil bones used in this research revealed no traces of any potential soft tissue components, a point missed by a number of media outlets that covered this story. However, if poorly preserved fossil material can retain microscopic traces of blood and other organic materials then it will change our science forever.  Dig sites will be subjected to forensic procedures, perhaps a clean room will be have to be set up in the field to help minimise the risk of organic cross-contamination.  What about the use of glues and resins that act as fossil bone stabilisers?  Could the over enthusiastic use of super glue at a dig station compromise the chances of retrieving viable traces of organic material later, back in the prep lab?

If other institutes can repeat these experiments and produce the same results consistently, then this has some dinosaur-sized implications for palaeontology.  If it can be concluded that the structures observed and analysed within the samples do indeed originate from preserved proteins from the extinct animal, then we may have an opportunity to study soft tissues in long dead creatures.  A more complete understanding of dinosaur biology may be within our grasp.

Now that would be something to make a movie about.

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