All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
//August
8 08, 2015

Alaska’s Very Own Loch Ness Monster

By | August 8th, 2015|General Teaching|Comments Off on Alaska’s Very Own Loch Ness Monster

Elasmosaurus Fossil Discovered in Alaska

The fossilised remains of a giant marine reptile have been uncovered by scientists in Alaska.  The fossils representing an Elasmosaurus, an animal that belongs to the Plesiosaur family, were found by an amateur fossil hunter who was hiking in the Talkeetna Mountain range when he came across several fragments of fossilised bone that had fallen down from a hillside.  Realising their importance, he recorded the location and contacted palaeontologists based at the University of Alaska Museum of the North who subsequently excavated the articulated remains.

Elasmosaurus had an extremely long neck.  It superficially resembles the mythical Loch Ness Monster (believed by some to be a Plesiosaur).  No fossils of an Elasmosaurus have been found this far north before.

At Home in the Seas of the Late Cretaceous

Elasmosaurs fed on fish and other small creatures.

Elasmosaurs fed on fish and other small creatures.

Picture Credit: James Havens

 At an estimated eight metres in length, the fossils, which include impressive cervical vertebrae (neck bones), represent a substantial marine creature, one that would be about the size of an extant female Orca (Orcinus orca), although about 50% of the animal’s body length would have been made up of that very long neck.  Humans have just seven neck bones (cervical vertebrae), whilst Elasmosaurs had more than seventy.

Excavating the Elasmosaurus Fossil Bones and Preparing them for Transport

Carefully field team members from the University of Alaska Museum of the North prepare the fossils for transport.

Carefully field team members from the University of Alaska Museum of the North prepare the fossils for transport.

Picture Credit: Patrick Druckenmiller

The picture above shows field team members from the University of Alaska Museum of the North wrapping the fossilised bones in plaster and sack cloth as they prepare to transport the fossils back to the preparation laboratory in Fairbanks (Alaska).

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur stated:

“This is a significant fossil find.  Ammonites and other invertebrate fossils are relatively common in the Talkeetna range, but to find the preserved remains of an Elasmosaur is really special.  It is not known at this stage whether this specimen represents a new species of marine reptile.  In addition, it is hoped that a study of the bones and the matrix surrounding them will help scientists to obtain data that helps them to determine whether this creature was a resident or a transient, seasonal visitor to the seas this far north.”

Despite the very short excavation window, the scientists have managed to remove a substantial number of fossils.  It is hoped that a field team will be sent out next summer to further explore the area in a bid to find skull material which would aid the scientists immensely in their research.

7 08, 2015

Preparing for a Trip to the Jurassic

By | August 7th, 2015|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal Drawings, Educational Activities, Teaching|0 Comments

Going on a Trip to the Jurassic

As part of Everything Dinosaur’s summer school commitments team members have spent the day preparing for trip into the east Midlands to help a group of Key Stage two children explore fossils.  Our plan is to set up in the school an artificial beach and to populate it with various fossils from our recent digs and field work.  Most of the fossils we will be using come from marine sediments and consist of lots of invertebrates, although there is some fossilised wood and even shark teeth.  Over the last year or so, we have been involved in a number of trips to explore highly fossiliferous sediments and as a result we have plenty of fossils to use in this fossils and dinosaur workshop session.

Lots of Fossils “on hand”

A successful fossil hunt.

A successful fossil hunt.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

It is going to be a dinosaur workshop with a difference.  Having populated the beach with various fossils, we are going to challenge the children to find them.  What they find they can keep, so long as the mums, dads and teachers present are OK with this.  In addition, we will be challenging the children to help us with some fossil identification.  This will involve lots of tactile fossil handling and helping them with their reading and writing.

We have also created a range of drawing materials so that the children can take home a drawing to colour in depicting what life was like in their part of the world during the Middle Jurassic.

A “Jurassic World”

Life in the Jurassic Seas.

Life in the Jurassic Seas.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The picture we have created is a composition consisting of many of the illustrations of Jurassic marine fauna we have stored in our database.  The drawing materials reflect the sort of fossils that the children will be able to discover on our artificial beach. There will be fragments of coral, bivalve shells, including some nice examples of “devil’s toenails” – Gryphaea.  As well as the various bivalves, there are Belemnite guards to find and pieces of fossilised Ammonite shell.  We have gastropods, fish scales, crinoids (sea lilies) and lots of lovely brachiopods, especially those that superficially resemble old lamps (often referred to as lampshells).

It should be a fun dinosaur workshop with lots of fossils to collect and to identify.

6 08, 2015

Chinese Authorities Seize Hundreds of Dinosaur Eggs in Raid

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

Dinosaur Skeleton and 213 Fossilised Eggs Recovered in Raid

Chinese police seized a total of 213 dinosaur egg fossils and an almost complete fossil of a small herbivorous dinosaur in a raid on a house in Guangdong Province (southern China).  Despite there being strict laws about the illegal removal and sale of ancient artefacts such as fossils in China, there is a significant trade in fossils from China, most of which are smuggled out of the country destined for the more lucrative markets for illegally sourced fossils in Europe and the United States.

A Huge Haul of Illegally Obtained Fossil Material

The Psittacosaurus was crated, either this is how it was sent from northern China or it was being prepared for illegal export.

The Psittacosaurus was crated, either this is how it was sent from northern China or it was being prepared for illegal export.

Picture Credit: Xinhua News Agency

The seizure took place on July 29th and was reported by the State run news agency – Xinhua.  The eggs come from a local construction site close to Heyuan City (Guangdong Province), they were looted by locals after workers uncovered a series of dinosaur egg fossils, discoveries of which have been reported over the last three months or so.  The eggs date from the Late Cretaceous, and this part of southern China is famous for its extensive dinosaur nesting site deposits.  Unfortunately, thefts of fossils are common as it is difficult for the authorities to keep track of each new fossil discovery.  Back in 2011, Everything Dinosaur team members reported on the return to China of a number of dinosaur eggs that had been illegally smuggled into the United States.

To read more about this: The Return of Stolen Dinosaur Eggs to China

Chinese officials believe that local residents raided the construction site where a number of dinosaur egg fossils had recently been uncovered.  The fossils were being stored at a local address, most likely prior to being sold onto a middle man who would then forward the illegally obtained items onto other dealers for sale to private collectors abroad.  The skeleton found at the address has been identified as being that of a Psittacosaurus, fossils of which have been found throughout northern China.  Although Everything Dinosaur has no specific information on this specimen, it has been suggested that this fossil comes from the Liaoning Province (north-eastern China), perhaps from the Yixian Formation.  The Psittacosaurus fossil specimen is much older than the eggs, the strata that makes up the Yixian Formation is cited as being Lower  Cretaceous, the Psittacosaurus may be more than 120 million years old.

An Illustration of the Dinosaur Psittacosaurus

A typical psittacosaurid.

A typical psittacosaurid.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Although China has some of the strictest legislation in the world in a bid to stop the exploitation of its rich fossil heritage, policing dig sites, many of which are found as a result of building projects and not by scientific fieldwork, is extremely difficult.  Illegal excavations for dinosaur fossils are believed to be common in Guangdong Province.  Some locals steal the fossils and keep them at home, whilst others are part of a network which smuggles the material out of the country, destined for the black market in fossils overseas.

The Fossils were Scattered All Over the House

Police raid house and discover hundreds of dinosaur eggs.

Police raid house and discover hundreds of dinosaur eggs.

Picture Credit: Xinhua News Agency

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur commented:

“This raid by the Chinese authorities might just deter would-be fossil thieves and make them think twice about the illegal removal of fossils. Sadly, we suspect that despite prompt police action in this case the smuggling and illegal sale of fossils from China is widespread and much more international co-operation is required in order to bring an end to this practice.”

Chinese Officials Inspect and Catalogue the Seized Fossils

Inspecting and sorting the fossilised eggs.

Inspecting and sorting the fossilised eggs.

Picture Credit: Xinhua News Agency

When asked to speculate on the type of dinosaur that laid the eggs, a spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur stated that the red sandstone around Heyuan City has yielded tens of fossils of dinosaur egg specimens.  The larger eggs in the photograph were most likely laid by duck-billed dinosaurs.  The smaller eggs were probably laid by oviraptorids.

“Although we cannot be certain, the smaller eggs may have been laid by a dinosaur known as Heyuannia huangi.  This small, Theropod, believed to be a member of the oviraptorids, a group of very bird-like dinosaurs, was named and described back in 2002 from a number of fossils found in the same strata as the eggs.”

5 08, 2015

Dinosaurs Inspire at Summer School

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

Kingswood Primary Academy Summer School – Its All About Dinosaurs!

The start of the week (Monday) and an Everything Dinosaur team member was dispatched to Northamptonshire to visit Kingswood Primary Academy to help kick-off their summer school with its theme all about dinosaurs.  The enthusiastic teaching team have developed a two week summer school with a focus on literacy to help the children (mainly Key Stage 2), to get to grips with composition, transcription and sentence construction.  With a topic like dinosaurs, there is certainly a great deal to write about.  For example, there are over 1,200 different types of dinosaur (genera) and new fossil discoveries are being made all the time.

The busy morning started with a short assembly which commenced immediately after registration.  In the assembly, Mr Bark (class teacher Year 5), outlined what the children would be doing during the course of the day and introduced our dinosaur expert who explained that fossils of prehistoric animals get discovered in the East Midlands of England and he demonstrated that fossils can even be found in the gravel outside of the classrooms.

Then it was on with the activities.  The children were split into three groups (Stegosaurs, Brachiosaurs and the Triceratops group) and each group was given the opportunity to participate in a very tactile fossil exploration and dinosaur workshop led by Everything Dinosaur.  This session helped to reinforce learning whilst retaining the focus on literacy.  The kinaesthetic nature of the dinosaur workshop supported the other two sessions offered over the course of the day.  The children were challenged to create a prehistoric animal timeline, jam-packed with lots of information and useful facts researched and prepared by the groups, many of the children demonstrated a surprising amount of knowledge.

A Very Informative Dinosaur Themed Timeline Created by Kingswood Primary Academy Pupils

Lots of facts and dinosaur information.

Lots of facts and dinosaur information.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur/Kingswood Primary Academy

Lots of Prehistoric Animal Themed Writing was Evident

Amazing facts all about Prehistoric Life.

Amazing facts all about Prehistoric Life.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur/Kingswood Primary Academy

Everything Dinosaur had supplied lots of dinosaur and prehistoric animal themed resources to help support the teaching aims and objectives.  The lesson plan we devised for our tactile fossil handling and exploration session helped to support the work of the teachers.  There were lots of examples of writing on display and some great use of adjectives too.

In addition to supplying the resources for the timeline exercise, our expert, during his dinosaur workshop challenged the children to have a go at designing their very own dinosaur.  He used a modern reconstruction of Triceratops (T. horridus) to help inspire the children.  There were some amazing creations on display by the end of the afternoon, with names like “beastiesaurus” and “feathersaurus”, with once again, lots of evidence of labelling, independent research, comprehension and sentence construction.

Amazing Dinosaur Designs on Display

Very creative dinosaurs!

Very creative dinosaurs!

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur/Kingswood Primary Academy

Super labelling on the diagrams and we were really impressed to see that many of the budding young palaeontologists had thought about the animal’s colours, what it might have eaten and how big it may have been.  There was just time at the end of the day to answer some of the many questions from the children (and from the teachers too).

The summer school is running for a fortnight and next week our dinosaur expert will return to the school to help out further.  For the next visit we are going to try to take each group on a seaside fossil hunt, quite a challenge when you consider how far from the sea Northamptonshire is!

To learn more about Everything Dinosaur’s dinosaur workshops in school: Contact Everything Dinosaur

4 08, 2015

Supporting Literacy at Summer School

By | August 4th, 2015|General Teaching, Key Stage 1/2|Comments Off on Supporting Literacy at Summer School

Kingswood Primary Academy Learn About Dinosaurs

It may be August and the school holidays but there is no rest for the dedicated teaching team at Everything Dinosaur.  Today, Everything Dinosaur visited Kingswood Primary Academy (Northamptonshire), to support the summer school focusing on literacy with a dinosaur theme.  The children, the majority of which are at Key Stage Two, took part in  a number of exercises and activities with a dinosaur and fossil theme.  One of our dinosaur experts led a tactile fossil handling session exploring how fossils form and what they can teach us about life in the past.  In addition, we supplied an array of resources including fact sheets, drawing materials and lesson plans to help the teachers.  The children were challenged to design their own dinosaur and we saw some wonderful, creative prehistoric animals.

Colourful Dinosaurs Inspired by Everything Dinosaur Workshop

A super "beastiesaurus" dinosaur design.

A super “beastiesaurus” dinosaur design.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur/Kingswood Primary Academy

With the focus on literacy, we challenged the children to include lots of labels and information about their dinosaur creation.

In a third session over the day, we helped the children build a dinosaur timeline so that they could show which prehistoric animals lived during the Mesozoic Era.  Using pegs and string the children, helped by the enthusiastic teaching team at Kingswood Primary Academy produced a set of super dinosaur timelines featuring lots of different dinosaurs and prehistoric animals.

The Dinosaur Timeline Created by One of the Student Groups

Dinosaur timeline at Kingswood Primary Academy.

Dinosaur timeline at Kingswood Primary Academy.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur/Kingswood Primary Academy

Once again, we encouraged the children to include lots of facts and information on their dinosaur and prehistoric animal timelines. The summer school, which will run over the next two weeks, has certainly got off to a great start.

Commenting on Everything Dinosaur’s contribution Andy Bark, (class teacher for Year 5) stated:

“The activities engaged and motivated the children and it was a super day!  Thanks.”

The children at Kingswood Primary Academy enjoyed the start of their dinosaur themed summer school with a visit from a fossil expert from Everything Dinosaur to help kick-off proceedings.  We will be back next week to provide further support and assistance to the teaching team.  Next week, we are off on a fossil hunt!

4 08, 2015

Four-Legged Snake Fossil Slithers into Legal Dispute

By | August 4th, 2015|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

Tetrapodophis amplectus Fossil Provokes Legal Action

Back on July 24th, Everything Dinosaur reported on the publication of a scientific paper that provided an insight into how snakes evolved from limbed ancestors.  The fossil of a snake-like creature with four tiny legs had been spotted on a tour of a German museum quite by chance.  It’s significance had not been realised until Dr. David Martill (University of Portsmouth), spotted the beautifully preserved fossil whilst taking a party of his vertebrate palaeontology students on a visit to Germany to explore some of the country’s natural history museum fossil collections.

The unique specimen is believed to have been excavated from the Crato Formation of north-eastern Brazil.  The animal has been named Tetrapodophis amplectus , the name means “four-legged” embracing snake”, as the limbs probably did not have much of a locomotive function but probably served as claspers in mating or helping to control and manipulate prey.

To read more about Tetrapodophis: First Fossil Snake with Four Limbs Described

With the paper published, a legal dispute has arisen with the Brazilian authorities and an investigation has begun to try to understand more about the provenance of the fossil material.  Brazil made it illegal in 1942 to sell or export fossils without the express permission of the Government.  The snake fossil was part of a private collection on display at the famous Bürgermeister-Müller-Museum in Solnhofen.  This museum, based in southern Germany, has amongst its fossil collection, spectacular Late Jurassic fossil specimens preserved in fine-grained, lithographic limestone. By chance, during Dr. Martill’s visit, the museum was putting on an exhibition of Cretaceous fossils from similar strata, but this time from Brazil.  Both the slab and the counter slab are known, but their exact provenance remains a mystery.  That’s the problem, it may have been collected prior to the Brazilian legislation, or perhaps it was collected after 1942, nobody is really sure.

The Beautifully Preserved and Extremely Significant Tetrapodophis Fossil

A beautifully preserved early, limbed snake.

A beautifully preserved early, limbed snake.

Picture Credit: Dr. Dave Martill/University of Portsmouth with additional annotation by Everything Dinosaur

The Brazilian officials are keen to investigate to try to determine whether the snake fossil was taken out of Brazil illegally.  If this is the case, then they may have grounds for repatriation.

Commenting on the situation Felipe Chaves, (Head of the Fossil Division of the Brazilian National Department of Mineral Production, based in Brasilia), stated:

“We will formalise the request for an investigation with the Brazilian Federal Police, in order to ascertain how this fossil specimen left Brazil.  We know some details that merit being investigated.”

The twist in the tale highlights a major problem in palaeontology.  How much responsibility can scientists take when it comes to upholding the legality of the fossil specimens that they study?

Unfortunately, fossils, especially those of vertebrates, can fetch high prices.  There is a black market of illegal fossil material and many collectors are prepared to pay large sums for exquisite specimens.  This encourages the illegal excavation and trading of such artefacts.  There are a number of countries that have established tough laws to try to prevent the smuggling of fossil material, but there is a lot of evidence to suggest that illegal selling is still widespread.

To read an article about the seizing of a dinosaur fossil skeleton (T. bataar) that was put up for sale at a New York auction: U.S. Authorities Seize Dinosaur Fossil at the Centre of Auction Row

Dr. Nicholas Longrich, a palaeontologist at the University of Bath and a co-author of the fossil study stated:

“Personally, I would have liked to see the fossil go back to Brazil, but it wasn’t my fossil and so it wasn’t my choice.  We did discuss at length whether the specimen should be returned, given that we were uncertain about when it left, but the counterargument was that there was no evidence to suggest that any laws had been broken.”

It was only when the scientific paper describing the snake fossil was published in the academic journal “Science”, that Brazilian Government officials became aware of the fossil’s existence. Felipe Chaves suggests that the research team should have informed the relevant authorities when they considered that this specimen most probably came from Brazil.  However, Dr Martill, the lead author of the Tetrapodophis scientific paper sees no need to do this.

He stated:

“There are hundreds, if not thousands of Brazilian fossils [in museum collections] all over the world.  It is a bit distracting if scientists have to mess about with the legality of fossils before they study them.  I see thousands of fossils every year from all over the planet.  I am not going to write to the governments of all those countries just to check each and every fossil.”

Looking at the Wider Point of View

Protectionist laws are in place in a number of countries, most notably China, where significant steps have been taken to try to reduce the smuggling of fossil material out of the country.  Such restrictions can hamper the collection and study of fossil specimens, but at the same time there is a need to protect a country’s heritage and to crack down on criminal activities.

A Seizure of Dinosaur Fossil Eggs (China)

Confiscated dinosaur eggs taken from smugglers by Chinese customs.

Confiscated dinosaur eggs taken from smugglers by Chinese customs.

Picture Credit: Chinese News Agency

Fossils from private collections often cause the greatest concern.  It can prove very difficult to establish how or when a fossil specimen was acquired.  However, should researchers publish data on fossils that may have been obtained illegally.  A number of academic journals produce guidelines to help clarify the situation, at least in so far as publishing a scientific paper.  For example, the academic journal “Cretaceous Research”, provides assistance to authors by noting in its author guidelines that papers on fossils of uncertain origin will not be accepted for publication, even if they are part of a museum’s collection.  The specimens must have unambiguous collection or ownership data associated with them.

Given the wealth of vertebrate fossil material from the Crato and Santana Formations of Brazil in museums, it is doubtful whether the Brazilian investigation will make much progress.

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur explained:

“We can see both sides of the argument. Firstly, there is the desire to have controls on the exportation of fossil material and other artefacts from a country.  Retaining fossils in their country of origin can do much to encourage science education and research in that part of the world.  However, it is important to allow the continuation of research into fossils housed in various collections around the world even if their provenance can be described as a bit “murky”.  The important thing is to deter illegal collecting whilst at the same time encouraging a more open attitude towards scientific study.  Owners of private collections may be tempted to hide their collections away, thus denying scientists the chance to access them and to conduct research.”

To read an article about the return of Chinese fossils by American Customs officials following a number of seizures: Returning Contraband to China

3 08, 2015

Earliest Evidence of Reproduction in a Complex Organism

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

Unravelling the Secrets of Fractofusus

There has been much debate over the origins of life on Earth and over the last two decades our understanding of that “slow burning fuse” leading to complex multi-cellular life forms has greatly improved, but many mysteries still remain.  During the latter stages of the Proterozoic Eon, referred to as the Neoproterozoic, the very first ecosystems were established with bacteria, algae and protists (single-celled organisms with a nucleus), still dominating but slowly and surely more complex life began to evolve and to play an increasingly important role in these food webs.  A team of scientists led by researchers from Cambridge University have identified the earliest example of reproduction in a complex organism, opening a window into life in deep water marine environments some 565 million years ago.

An Illustration of the Bizarre Ediacaran Fauna Fractofusus

An illustration showing how Fractofusus colonisised new territory.

An illustration showing how Fractofusus colonised new territory.

Picture Credit: Cambridge University

Fractofusus (two species F. misrai and F. andersoni) was the organism studied.  Fractofusus, which belonged to a group of bizarre organisms that show links to both the Plantae and Animalia Kingdoms called Rangeomorphs, thrived in marine habitats during the Ediacaran, a geological period that marked the end of the Proterozoic Eon, that lasted from around 635 million years ago to 542 million years ago.  Ediacaran fauna represent a transition from the microbially dominated food chains of the early Earth towards the modern biota that can be identified in Cambrian fossils.  More than thirty different Ediacaran faunal types have now been described providing scientists with the oldest known record of diverse, complex creatures.  Fossils of these ancient communities have been found in Russia, the Ediacaran Hills of South Australia (from which this geological period was named) and in Canada (Newfoundland and Labrador).  The Fractofusus fossils in this study come from the Mistaken Point Ecological Reserve on the coast of Newfoundland.

The research team discovered that Fractofusus took a bilateral approach to reproduction.  These lozenge shaped fossils were benthic (live on the sea floor) and sessile (attached to rocks), in addition, they were not mobile.  This means that fossils showing these strange organisms preserve them in situ, as they would have been when they were alive.  If an area is dotted with these fossils, then the scientists have a spatial map of how these organisms were distributed.  It is from these spatial maps that ideas about their reproduction strategy can be inferred.

Looking like fern fronds, Fractofusus was related to Charnia masoni, fossils of which were first identified from rocks exposed at Charnwood Forest in Leicestershire (Midlands of England).  These bizarre life-forms probably lived in deep water, far below the Epipelagic Zone of the ocean (the first two hundred metres of sea, where sunlight can penetrate).  At depth, no sunlight could reach, so these organism were not true plants as they could not photosynthesize.  They are difficult to place in the Kingdom Animalia as well.  They were fractual forms, with frond-like structures with no mouths, alimentary canal, anus or any method of locomotion.  It is likely that their large surface areas, (some of these organisms were up to two metres in length), allowed them to absorb nutrients directly from the sea water.  They probably grew extremely slowly.

Fractofusus Fossils Used in the Study

(a) = Fractofusus andersoni and (b) = Fractofusus misrai

(a) = Fractofusus andersoni and (b) = Fractofusus misrai

Picture Credit: Cambridge University

Fractofusus colonies dominate the fossil assemblage found along the coast of Newfoundland.  Two main species were analysed in this study.  Firstly, there is the more oval form (a) F. andersoni, pictured above and then there is the elongate form Fractofusus misrai (b).  Both these species exhibit the typical structures of this ancient organism, as preserved in the negative, epirelief external moulds formed in silts which were covered in volcanic ash deposits.

Analysis of the cluster patterns of the fossils revealed the likelihood of two methods of reproduction.  In one method, the organism sprouted “runners” from its body similar to the stolons produced by plants such as strawberries (asexual reproduction).  The second reproduction method (asexual or sexual reproduction), involved the release of waterborne propagules (simple buds or seeds released into the water column).  Such reproduction habits would have allowed this immobile organism to rapidly colonise a local area as well as to move to new territory.  The capacity of Fractofusus to derive the next generation by two distinct reproductive modes is a testament to its sophisticated biology.

Unfortunately, Fractofusus seems to have become extinct during the start of the Cambrian geological period around 542 million years ago, a time when more complex organisms were involving including animals with hard shells and armour with the establishment of the first complex predator/prey based ecosystems.

A Diagram Illustrating How Fractofusus Spread

Simplified diagram showing spatial distribution of Fractofusus.

Simplified diagram showing spatial distribution of Fractofusus.

Picture Credit: Cambridge University

The dual method of reproduction is illustrated in the above diagram.  Larger “grand-parent” organisms were the product of ejected waterborne propagules, while the “parents” and “children” grew from stolon like structures sent out by the older generation.

Lead author of the scientific paper, which has just been published in the journal “Nature”, Dr. Emily Mitchell (Cambridge University) stated:

“It [Fractofusus] has a very distinct body plan that is totally unique. There is nothing like Fractofusus around today, which makes trying to understand anything about it really, really difficult.  We knew very little about it, apart from the fact that it lived in the deep sea, it has a relatively large surface area, so it got its nutrients from the water column.  We literally had no idea how it reproduced prior to this study.”

Dr. Mitchell went onto add:

“Fractofusus doesn’t exhibit any of the features you associate with animals.  It certainly wasn’t a plant.  It belonged to a now extinct eukaryotic group known as Rangeomorphs.  But how Rangeomorphs relate to animals and the origins of animals is incredibly difficult to work out.”

This statistical, spatial mapping approach to the study of Ediacaran fauna is in its infancy.  The research team hope to employ this technique to explore how Fractofusus interacted with its environment and how colonies interacted with each other.

2 08, 2015

The Limestone Fossils of Dudley (Wrens Nest)

By | August 2nd, 2015|Dinosaur Fans, Geology, Main Page|0 Comments

Visit to the Wrens Nest Nature Reserve (Dudley, West Midlands)

Prior to the first of Everything Dinosaur’s summer schools just time for team members to take in a quick trip to the famous Wrens Nest National Nature Reserve (Dudley, West Midlands).  It was an early start, (yet again), but it did prove worth it as the weather behaved and team members were able to enjoy a walk around this very significant part of the world (in terms of geology anyway), before having a picnic close to the famous Silurian ripple beds.  The Silurian ripple beds are just one of the amazing geological features to be found in this abandoned quarry.  The area was declared a National Nature Reserve back in 1956 due to the amazing fossil assemblage that can be found over the 100 acres or so of the Reserve.  Some seven hundred different invertebrate fossils have been identified at the site, they date from the Silurian age (approximately 423 million  years ago), the rocks themselves being part of the Wenlock Group.  Eighty-six of the fossil types are unique to Dudley, they have been found nowhere else in the world.

The Amazing Ripple Beds of Wrens Nest

Amazing geological feature.

Amazing geological feature.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

A Close up of the Silurian-aged Ripple Beds of Wrens Nest National Nature Reserve

Preseved in limestone, the ripple beds.

Preserved in limestone, the ripple beds.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The quarry work ended in 1925 and when the Reserve was created it was the UK’s first ever geological National Nature Reserve.  It the area has also SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) status due to its geological, palaeontological and historical significance.  It is also home to a wide variety of wild flowers and the caverns, now barricaded to prevent human visitors provide invaluable overwintering habitats for a number of species of bats.

Although this picturesque nature reserve is enjoyed by local residents and visitors alike, it is the huge variety of invertebrate fossils that amazes team members.  Whilst we enjoyed our picnic (taking great care to remove all our litter), we marvelled at the array of fossils that can be found eroding out of the limestone beds (no hammers allowed).  We contented ourselves by taking some pictures of the rich fossil assemblage, fossils to be found at this location include corals (tabulate and rugose forms), crinoids (sea lilies), brachiopods, bivalves, gastropods and some trace fossils (worm tubes).  Sadly, the trilobite fossils that made this part of the world so famous are increasingly rare.

A Close up of the Amazing, Highly Fossiliferous Limestone at Wrens Nest

A huge variety of fossils can be found.

A huge variety of fossils can be found.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The exposed rock faces of the various quarry sites give geologists a unique opportunity to teach Silurian geology to students in an outdoor setting.  The location provides a definitive section through the Wenlock Formation.  The town of Dudley, is synonymous with the Wenlock limestone strata and the fossil assemblage contained therein.  This internationally famous location has provided a valuable insight into the marine life in coral sea environments during the Late Silurian geological period.  Both macro and micro-fossils have been preserved at this site.

Everything Dinosaur team members certainly enjoyed their visit to the fossil rich Wrens Nest National Nature Reserve to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the company.

1 08, 2015

Everything Dinosaur Tenth Anniversary

By | August 1st, 2015|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page, Press Releases|0 Comments

Happy Tenth Birthday to Everything Dinosaur

Today, August 1st, marks the tenth anniversary of the founding of Everything Dinosaur.  Hasn’t the time whizzed by!  We wanted to take this opportunity to say a very big thank you to all our thousands of customers, friends, supporters and followers who have been with us on our amazing journey over the last decade.  We really appreciate your support.

Everything Dinosaur Tenth Anniversary

Happy Tenth Birthday!

Happy Tenth Birthday!

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

First thing to do this morning was to message the winner of our “name the Pterosaur Guidraco” competition.  We will have made somebody’s day and their prize will be sent out shortly.  A super replica of a Guidraco Pterosaur which is in 1:4 scale (CollectA Guidraco venator model).

How do we celebrate our tenth birthday?  We are having a get together this afternoon, hopefully a barbecue and then tomorrow, weather permitting, we are off on a fossil hunt!  Then it’s back to work with preparations for a summer school visit on Monday morning.

As for our tenth anniversary/birthday banner, we believe that tin is the traditional gift for a tenth anniversary so we put things on the banner from our vast product range to do with “tin”.

We have our popular “dinosaurs in a tin” gift set, but what else is there?  Can you spot the connection?

  • There is a model of Argentinosaurus.
  • A Dinosaurs counting set
  • A Tiny Towns Volcano play set

Over the last ten years we have loved every minute (well most of it anyway).  Our mission to be the best supplier of dinosaur toys, models and games remains very much at the heart of our business.

Once again a very big thank you to all our customers from around the world.  Here’s to the next ten years of dinosaur themed adventures.

Visit Everything Dinosaur: Dinosaur Toys, Models and Games

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