All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
//January
11 01, 2016

Giant Cretaceous Marine Crocodile from Tunisia

By | January 11th, 2016|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Prehistoric Crocodile – Machimosaurus rex

A team of international scientists including researchers from the University of Bologna (Italy), the University of Alberta (Canada) and the Office National Des Mines, Service Patrimoine Géologique (Tunis, Tunisia), have announced the discovery of the fossilised bones of a huge prehistoric marine crocodile, the largest member of the Teleosauridae (marine crocodyliforms), described to date.  The ancient crocodile provides proof that these types of marine reptile did not become extinct at the end of the Jurassic.

An Illustration of the Super-sized Marine Crocodile (Machimosaurus rex)

Probably preyed on turtles.

Probably preyed on turtles.

Picture Credit: Davide Bonadonna

The fossil material which includes a nearly complete skull plus post cranial elements such as ribs, cervical and dorsal vertebrae plus one bone from the forelimbs, comes from Lower Cretaceous rocks of Tataouine (southern Tunisia).  The giant crocodile, named Machimosaurus rex was probably an ambush predator of the lagoonal environments on the shores of the Tethys Ocean.  It lived approximately 130 million years ago in the Early Cretaceous (Barremian faunal stage of the Cretaceous).

A Scale Drawing of M. rex Showing the Fossil Material Found

A scale drawing showing known fossil material and close up of the skull (dorsal view).

A scale drawing showing known fossil material and close up of the skull (dorsal view).

Picture Credit: Marco Auditore

At an estimated ten metres in length, and perhaps weighing more than three tonnes, not only is this the largest marine crocodile known to science, but it is also the largest crocodylomorph known from the Barremian faunal stage.  There are larger crocodiles known from the fossil record, Deinosuchus of North America and Sarcosuchus from Africa for example, but these animals lived later in the Mesozoic.  Machimosaurus rex with its skull measuring 160 centimetres in length, was certainly bigger than any extant crocodile.  The relatively short snout and the shape of the teeth (blunt and bullet shaped), suggest that this big “croc”, like many other members of the Machimosaurus genus, specialised in hunting turtles, but it may also have ambushed unwary dinosaurs and other animals should they have got too close to the water’s edge.

Field Team Members Pose with the Skull in Situ

The field team pose with the fossilised skull.

The field team pose with the fossilised skull.

Picture Credit: Federico Fanti

A Skull Bigger than Tyrannosaurus rex

The Machimosaurus genus contains a number of species, most of which were named and described in the 19th Century.  Their fossils are widespread with specimens having been recorded from Switzerland, France, Germany and England, although the Tunisian specimen is the only one known from Cretaceous strata.

University of Alberta PhD student Tetsuto Miyashita, a co-author of the scientific paper that was published this week in the journal “Cretaceous Research” stated:

“These teeth weren’t for cutting or piercing flesh.  They were built for crushing bones.”

Hence the speculation that along with other Machimosaurs, this crocodile specialised in hunting and eating turtles.

This part of Tunisia remains relatively unexplored and fieldwork was difficult as the region is politically unstable.  However, the scientists hope to be able to return to the area in the near future to look for more post cranial material and to search for evidence of other vertebrates that shared this crocodile’s watery habitat.

Commenting on the significance of the discovery, lead author, palaeontologist Dr. Federico Fanti (University of Bologna) said:

“The fossils indicate that M. rex belonged to a group of crocodiles that inhabited the sea and coastal areas around the end of the Jurassic Period, but the species is not directly related to modern-day crocodiles.”

Surviving Into the Cretaceous

It had been thought that the teleosaurids had died out at the end of the Jurassic, but the discovery of Machimosaurus rex refutes this hypothesis.  It seems likely that the paucity of the fossil record for these types of crocodiles from Gondwana may have skewed the data to suggest that these marine crocodiles became extinct at the end of the Jurassic.  Although, local extinction events may have occurred, it seems likely that more fossils of crocodylomorphs that get assigned to the Machimosaurus genus will be found in Cretaceous-aged rocks.

Dr. Fanti added:

“Therefore, this discovery sheds new light on the hypothesised mass extinction event at the end of the Jurassic, a biological crisis currently much less understood than the famous extinction at the end of the Cretaceous that wiped out the dinosaurs.” 

A Picture of Machimosaurus spp. Cranial Material

Typical skull material assigned to the Machimosaurus genus and line drawing (below).

Typical skull material assigned to the Machimosaurus genus and line drawing (below).

Picture Credit: Wikipedia Commons

Palaeontology can Sometimes be a Dangerous Business

This part of Tunisia remains politically unstable and field work has been hampered, but members of the research team are hopeful that they will be able to return to complete their survey of the area.  Sadly, barely a week after the field team left Tunis then ISIL inspired terrorists attacked the Bardo National Museum in Tunis (18th March 2015), killing more than twenty people and injuring a further forty-two.

Reflecting on the current troubles in that part of the Arab world, Tetsuto Miyashita said:

“Sometimes we are reminded that our endeavour to unlock the ancient mysteries is only possible through peace, freedom and sheer goodwill of people.  We were touched by the kindness and hospitality of Tunisians when we were there.  Nothing could make me happier than us working together again to get to that big monster.”

10 01, 2016

So You Want to be a Palaeontologist?

By | January 10th, 2016|Book Reviews, Dinosaur Fans, Educational Activities, Main Page, Press Releases|0 Comments

Practical Career Advice for Fossil Fans

One of the most frequently asked questions sent into us is how do you go about getting a job as a palaeontologist?  We provide what information and support we can to budding fossil experts (and their mums and dads), but thankfully, assistance is at hand with the publication of this helpful and most informative guide on how to develop a career in palaeontology.  Author Dr. David Penney, dissects his more than twenty years of experience in this scientific field and provides an overview of the type of career paths, those who have a love of fossils and all things prehistoric might want to consider.

So You Want to be a Palaeontologist?

Practical advice and guidance.

Practical advice and guidance.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Always put a scale on your photographs!  The book is full of tips and advice on how to stand out from other potential job applicants, whether it is as a professional fossil dealer or a scientific illustrator (palaeoartist).

This well written publication defines palaeontology before setting out the various roles and activities that palaeontologists undertake.  Dr. David Penney, expertly guides the reader through the wide variety of career options that the science now offers.  He covers the work of palaeontologists in museum related roles as well as providing a comprehensive overview of more academic focused avenues, whether as a researcher, a lecturer or a field technician.

For further information and to purchase an advance copy of this wonderful book: Visit Siri Scientific Press

Illustrated with some lovely colour plates, including some insightful behind the scenes photographs, the main section of the book is dedicated to exploring the various and very diverse jobs that someone with an interest in fossils might want to consider.  There is helpful advice on obtaining qualifications, as well as some words of encouragement for those of us who spend our time blogging about palaeontology and fossil discoveries.

If you are searching for a book which outlines a history of fossil research, then look elsewhere, but if you really want a practical and sensible walk through of the career possibilities linked to this fascinating aspect of science, then “So you want to be a palaeontologist?” is a must have for your book shelf.

The book is not aimed at younger readers, but it has been written for a very broad audience.  Students, hobby fossil collectors, writers, artists and those interested in a career in science education would do well to get hold of a copy.  Everything Dinosaur recommends this publication in particular to mums, dads, grandparents and guardians of primary school children who are expressing an interest in science and palaeontology.

For advance copies of “So you want to be a palaeontologist?”: Siri Scientific Press Website

Commenting on the book a spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur stated:

“This is a must have for anyone seriously contemplating working in palaeontology.  It also makes a great gift for anyone who is considering aspiring to be amongst the next generation of palaeontologists, or indeed for the enthusiastic fossil collector who would like to become more involved with this fascinating area of science.”

9 01, 2016

Dinosaur Hunt at Primary School

By | January 9th, 2016|Educational Activities, Main Page, Teaching|0 Comments

Year 1 Goes on a Dinosaur Hunt at St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School

It was a busy morning for Year 1 pupils at St Joseph’s Catholic Primary (Brighouse, West Yorkshire), as they explored dinosaurs and fossils as part of their term topic “Dinosaur hunt”.  The classroom already had plenty of examples of dinosaur themed writing as the children had written to the experts at Everything Dinosaur inviting a team member to visit to help them learn all about prehistoric animals and life in the past.

Plenty of Examples of Hand-writing on Display

Writing about dinosaurs.

Writing about dinosaurs.

Picture Credit: St Joseph’s Catholic Primary/Everything Dinosaur

Meeting up with Miss Vogel, the Year 1 class teacher, before the start of the morning of activities, a member of Everything Dinosaur’s teaching team was able to provide advice on a range of extension ideas, all aimed at supporting the learning needs of the class.  The first part of the session was located in the spacious hall, providing plenty of opportunities to introduce some physical exercises to help reinforce learning.  The second session was based in the classroom and it was focused on a prehistoric animal measuring activity, a chance for the children to practice using measuring cubes and rulers and to compare the size of dinosaur’s feet to the size of their own hands.

A Dinosaur Themed Display Wall

A dinosaur and fossil themed display wall.

A dinosaur and fossil themed display wall.

Picture Credit: St Joseph’s Catholic Primary/Everything Dinosaur

Under the enthusiastic guidance of Miss Vogel, the children had drawn some fossil ammonites and some of these had been placed on the display wall.  The children got to see some real ammonite fossils including a giant one, that Mrs Midgley (teaching assistant), helped the children explore.    The workshop encouraged a multitude of tactile activities including lots of fossil handling as well as exploring how some dinosaurs ate plants and how the brain of an Ankylosaurus compares in size to our own.

As part of the term topic, the teaching team intend to turn a corner of the classroom into a dinosaur museum so that the children’s work can be displayed.  The dinosaur expert from Everything Dinosaur provided advice on how best to do this and how to incorporate discovery learning projects that involve encouraging more hand-writing and links into building an understanding of the geography of the UK.

The Teaching Team Plan to Build a Small Dinosaur Museum 

A dinosaur museum under construction.

A dinosaur museum under construction.

Picture Credit: St Joseph’s Catholic Primary/Everything Dinosaur

The children were very excited by the dinosaur workshop and they were keen to show how much about dinosaurs they had already learned.  Mrs Midgley helped one little boy create a super dinosaur skeleton out of straws.  Well done Mrs Midgley, we love the way in which you created the dinosaur’s eye.  This is just the sort of hands-on, kinaesthetic activity that can really help younger, less confident learners.

Mrs Midgley and Her “Straw-o-saurus”

A dinosaur made from straws.

A dinosaur made from straws.

Picture Credit: St Joseph’s Catholic Primary/Everything Dinosaur

Just like a real scientist, Mrs Midgley even put her name on her work.  The children were challenged to have a go at comparing dinosaur footprints and recording information in the same way that palaeontologists do.  All in all, it was a fun and fact filled morning.

8 01, 2016

Dance of the Dinosaurs

By | January 8th, 2016|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

A Dinosaur Goes a Wooing?

The link between the Dinosauria and birds is well established.  However, to what extent can we view the behaviour of our feathered friends today and infer behaviours in the long extinct dinosaurs?  Thanks to some new research published this week in the academic journal “Scientific Reports”, palaeontologists may have  gained an insight into the courtship and mating behaviours of Theropod dinosaurs.

The research team, which included scientists from South Korea, China, Poland as well as the United States, conclude that trace fossils consisting of gouges and scrapes preserved in sandstone strata that is estimated to be around 100 million years old, preserve evidence of dinosaurs engaging in courtship and mating behaviours similar to extant birds.  The scrapes, gouges and scratches, some of which cover an area the size of a bathtub, have been interpreted as being similar to “nest scrape display” as seen in modern Aves.

Dinosaurs Displaying and Undertaking Ritualised Courtship Displays

An artist imagines the Cretaceous Courtship Scene

An artist imagines the Cretaceous courtship scene.

Picture Credit: (Lida Xing and Yujiang Han / University of Colorado, Denver)

The study was led by Professor Martin Lockley (University of Colorado) a highly respected specialist in dinosaur tracks and footprints (ichnologist).  The team interpret the trace fossils as evidence of courtship behaviour in Theropod dinosaurs as the dinosaurs demonstrated their ability to make suitable mates by excavating pseudo nests.  Various trace fossil sites were studied and mapped, most of which are associated with the Upper Cretaceous deposits of the Dakota sandstone and mudstone formation of western Colorado.

Professor Lockley explained:

“These are the first sites with evidence of dinosaur mating display rituals ever discovered, and the first physical evidence of courtship behaviour.  These huge scrape displays fill in a missing gap in our understanding of dinosaur behaviour.”

Scientists Provide a Sense of Scale to the Scrape Marks

Martin Lockley (right) and Ken Cart pose beside large Theropod dinosaur scrapes in western Colorado.

Martin Lockley (right) and  co-author Ken Cart pose beside large Theropod dinosaur scrapes in western Colorado.

Picture Credit: University of Colorado

Could They Be Signs of Digging for Water or Food?

In their review of the trace fossil evidence, the scientists dismiss the idea that the marks could have been made by meat-eating Theropod dinosaurs looking for food.  Back in 2010, Everything Dinosaur reported on a remarkable trace fossil found in Utah which suggested that a deinonychosaurid dinosaur had been digging out a potential prey animal from its burrow.  However, no evidence of burrows or other signs of prey were found in association with the scrapes.

To read about the evidence of a dinosaur potentially digging mammals out of their burrow: Trace Fossils Suggest a Dinosaur Digging for its Supper

As for whether the marks represent dinosaurs digging for water, after all much of the Dakota sandstone and mudstone was laid down in association with rivers and streams, the researchers conclude that this is unlikely.  Whilst elephants and other terrestrial vertebrates do dig into dried up river beds to find water, the authors conclude that these marks are not “scratch digging” as any attempt to dig to the level of the water table would produce a pooling of water which would have washed away any scrape marks made in the sediment.

A Map of One of the Study Sites (Club Gulch – Western Colorado)

Map of Club Gulch site (a) prepared in Photoshop CS5 by MGL, with natural colour photogrammetic image (b) at same scale by RTM and LGB. Coloured image (inset in a) shows three large scrapes, together covering 5 m. Digging traces are classified as paired (bilobed) or single, with or without scratch marks and adjacent sand aprons.

Map of Club Gulch site (a) prepared in Photoshop CS5 by MGL, with natural colour photogrammetic image (b) at same scale by RTM and LGB. Coloured image (inset in a) shows three large scrapes, together covering 5 m. Digging traces are classified as paired (bilobed) or single, with or without scratch marks and adjacent sand aprons.

Picture Credit: Scientific Reports

The display arenas, also referred to as “leks” were found in two National Conservation Areas (Dominguez-Escalante and Gunnison Gorge) on property permitted by the Bureau of Land Management near Delta, Colorado.  The biggest site had approximately sixty preserved scrapes, located in a single bed of sandstone covering an area of 750 square metres.  The scientists also studied potential dinosaur mating/courtship fossil sites at the Dinosaur Ridge, a National Natural Landmark, just west of the city of Denver.

It is assumed that the males competed with each other to impress the females.  The females, choosing the most impressive male performers as their consorts.  Similar mating selection behaviours are common in Tetrapods alive today, however, until now scientists could only speculate about dinosaur mating behaviour although in Theropods at least, it had been assumed it might be similar to that of their modern avian relatives.

Dinosaurs Strutting Their Stuff

The discovery of a number of feathered varieties including oviraptorids with ornate tail feathers has led a number of palaeontologists to speculate that some Theropod dinosaurs performed elaborate displays in order to win a mate or to gain status amongst the flock.  Research from the University of Alberta (Canada), proposed that some dinosaurs had compressed tail vertebrae that formed a pygostyle, as seen in many extant birds.  This structure would have enabled the dinosaurs to shake their tail feathers.

To read an article that provides more detail on this research: Dinosaurs Shaking Their Tails

Commenting on this new study, Professor Lockley stated:

“The scrape evidence has significant implications.  This is physical evidence of pre-historic foreplay that is very similar to birds today.  Modern birds using scrape ceremony courtship usually do so near their final nesting sites.  So the fossil scrape evidence offers a tantalising clue that dinosaurs in ‘heat’ may have gathered here millions of years ago to breed and then to nest nearby.”

A Line Drawing with Key of One of the Trace Fossil Sites Studied

The coloured image shows three large scrapes.

The coloured image shows three large scrapes.

Picture Credit: Scientific Reports

7 01, 2016

Congratulations to Safari Ltd and CollectA

By | January 7th, 2016|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products, Press Releases|0 Comments

Spinosaurus and Sauropelta Model Dinosaurs Win Accolade

Readers of Prehistoric Times Magazine have voted the recently introduced new versions of Spinosaurus made by CollectA and the Wild Safari Dinos Sauropelta armoured dinosaur replica from Safari Ltd as joint winners in the best toy dinosaur model of 2015 category.  Everything Dinosaur team members would like to extend their congratulations to both CollectA and Safari Ltd for winning this award.

The CollectA Spinosaurus Models Are Winners

CollectA Spinosaurus available from Everything Dinosaur.

CollectA Spinosaurus available from Everything Dinosaur.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The picture above shows the not to scale Walking Spinosaurus (on the left) and the Swimming Spinosaurus (on the right), these dinosaur models are based on the September 2014 reassessment of the fossil material associated with Spinosaurus aegyptiacus.  When the scientific paper was first published it attracted a great deal of debate amongst palaeontologists.  The absence of more substantive fossil material prevents the debate over the posture and stance of Spinosaurus from being resolved.

The CollectA 1:40 Spinosaurus Deluxe

Leading the way in interpreting dinosaur fossils.

Leading the way in interpreting dinosaur fossils.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The photograph above shows the Deluxe Spinosaurus as a spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur said when the models were first introduced:

“CollectA have become a very innovative model manufacturer and their efforts in these new reinterpretations of Spinosaurus are to be applauded.”

To view the CollectA 1:40 Deluxe Spinosaurus and other scale models of prehistoric animals made by CollectA: CollectA Deluxe Prehistoric Animals

To view the CollectA not to scale prehistoric animals: CollectA Dinosaurs

Sharing the award with the three Spinosaurus models is the excellent Wild Safari Dinos Sauropelta.  The armoured Sauropelta is a wonderful model, we are delighted to see that the work in sculpting “shield lizard” has been recognised.

A Very Well Deserved Award

Available from Everything Dinosaur in early 2015

Available from Everything Dinosaur

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To purchase the Sauropelta model and other prehistoric animal replicas from Safari Ltd at Everything Dinosaur: Wild Safari Dinos and Carnegie Collectibles

Given the amazing new prehistoric animals due out this year, it looks like the competition to win this prestigious accolade is going to be even tougher in 2016.

Everything Dinosaur congratulates both Safari Ltd and CollectA for their excellent work.

6 01, 2016

Everything Dinosaur’s Social Media Targets 2015 Reviewed

By | January 6th, 2016|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page, Press Releases|0 Comments

A Review of Everything Dinosaur’s Social Media Targets for 2015

Time for a quick update on Everything Dinosaur’s performance on social media over the last twelve months or so.  First, a big thank you to all our Twitter feed followers, Facebook fans, Pinterest pinners, Youtube channel subscribers we appreciate you all.

A Big Iguanodon “Thumbs Up” to All Everything Dinosaur’s Social Media Fans

Praise from a dinosaur!

Praise from a dinosaur!

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

She who must be obeyed “Tyrannosaurus Sue” set targets for “likes” on Facebook, followers on Twitter, pins on Pinterest and such like for 2015.  Let’s take a look to see how we did.

  •  Everything Dinosaur’s School Website (Dinosaurs for Schools) – blog posts and the number of free downloads available

Since this website went live in August 2014, we have been able to help many hundreds of teachers and thousands of school children.  This website: Dinosaurs in Schools provides  free downloads, teaching resources, school lesson plans, activity ideas and so much more.  In 2014, we posted up sixty-seven articles on the teaching blog, featuring new dinosaur discoveries and about how to teach about fossils and prehistoric animals in school.  In 2015, we added a further ninety-three articles, not a bad effort considering it was a record year for dinosaur workshops and school visits.  However, our target was to add an extra 125 articles (total by the year end to be 192 school blog posts).

To visit Everything Dinosaur’s website for schools and those who tutor at home: Teaching About Dinosaurs in Schools

  1. In terms of blog articles posted up we achieved 74% of our intended target (93 articles posted against a target of 125)
  2. We set out to add a further 10 free downloads for teachers in 2015, we got 9 put up so that’s a 90% of target achieved as far as we are concerned.
  •  Facebook and Everything Dinosaur

Team members enjoy seeing all the dinosaur themed Facebook posts and we have had a busy year with our own Facebook exploits.  At the end of 2014 we had 1,581 Facebook likes and we set a target of 2,000 for 2015.  The Facebook “likes” target has been well and truly beaten with 1,000 new “likes” added to our page over the last twelve months.  A huge thank you to everyone who supported Everything Dinosaur on Facebook last year – we are genuinely humbled.   In 2014 we had about 175 friends on Facebook, at the end of 2015 we had 479 friends, that’s a very big increase.  We believe that Facebook “likes” have to be earned and not purchased, we shall continue to work hard to earn every appreciative “like” and every “friend” that we receive.

Targets:

  1. Increase “likes” to “2,000” by the end of 2015 – achieved we have over 2,580 “likes” in total
  2. Increase the number of friends we have on Facebook to 400 by the end of the year – achieved we have 479 friends
  3. Run at least three competitions and free giveaways to show our gratitude to our Facebook fans (just like we did last year) – achieved we gave away lots of super dinosaur themed prizes too.
We believe customer service is the key to getting "likes".

Target for 2015 was 2,000 earned “likes”.

Feel free to “like” our page by clicking on the Facebook logo – that would be brilliant!!

  • Twitter

By the end of 2015 Everything Dinosaur had “tweeted” some 3,440 times, the “tweet target” for 2015 was 3,200 so we have exceeded this target and in terms of the number of people following us we wanted to get over 500 followers, by December 31st we had 676 followers.  We are not following quite as many other Twitter feeds as we thought we would, but in this instance it is probably a case of quality not quantity.

  • Youtube

As we end this year our Youtube channel: Everything Dinosaur on Youtube has 105 videos posted up, this is a few less than we anticipated after we did not get all the videos made that we wanted to.   However, we are still really impressed with the number of channel views which now stands at over a million (thanks to everyone).  Subscriber numbers stand at 1,532, up from 1,200 in the previous year which is also very impressive for us, although we did have a 2015 target of 1,750 subscribers.  We are confident that if we post up more videos we will get more subscribers, especially if we maintain our focus on prehistoric animal model and replica reviews.

Visit Everything Dinosaur’s Youtube Channel

Click on the banner to visit Everything Dinosaur's Youtube channel.

Click on the banner to visit Everything Dinosaur’s Youtube channel.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

  • Pinterest

Everything Dinosaur has “smart pins” and our entire product range is slowly and surely being added to our pinterest presence, along with new boards such as “Jurassic World” and Crystal Palace dinosaurs.  Here is how we fared against our 2015 targets.

  1. Target for 2015 8,500 pins – actual pins 10,200
  2. Target for 2015 1,050 followers – actual followers 1,300
  3. Target 600 following – actual number for the end of the year is 486 (like Twitter we suspect it is a question of quality not quantity).

To visit our Pinterest pages, simply click on the Pin It logo below:

Click to visit Everything Dinosaur's Pinterest pages.

Click to visit Everything Dinosaur’s Pinterest pages.

That’s about all for social media targets, Everything Dinosaur team members are confident that “she who must be obeyed”, Tyrannosaurus Sue will be setting some targets for 2016, but one other point to note is that our website: Everything Dinosaur had 1,398 customer reviews posted up on it by the end of last year (indeed, we have now reached 1,400).  A really big thank you to all our reviewers and everyone who has posted a comment up on our website.

The Everything Dinosaur Blog (This Site)

Since we began this blog back in May 2007, we have tried to post up an article every single day, aiming for a total of at least 365 articles and stories per year.  On May 23rd 2015 we posted up our 3,000th article, that’s quite a milestone!

In May Everything Dinosaur Celebrated the 3,000th Blog Article

Celebrating our 3,000th blog post.

Celebrating our 3,000th blog post.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

We had calculated that by December 31st 2015 we would have 3,221 articles posted up, in fact, we ended the year on 3,225.  We are a long way off our 4,000th article, that should come some time in the first few months of 2018, however, we should comfortably pass the 3,500 landmark this year.

A Very Big Thank You from Everything Dinosaur

Thank you from Everything Dinosaur.

Thank you from Everything Dinosaur.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

5 01, 2016

Sneak Peak – Prehistoric Times Issue 116

By | January 5th, 2016|Dinosaur Fans, Magazine Reviews, Main Page|0 Comments

Looking Forward to Prehistoric Times (Winter 2016)

A new year and we resolve to keep reading the excellent “Prehistoric Times” – the magazine for dinosaur fans, those who appreciate prehistoric animals and a must read for dinosaur model collectors.  Editor Mike Fredericks sent us over a picture of the front cover showing a wonderful Kentrosaurus, our copy will no doubt, soon be arriving at the Everything Dinosaur offices and there will be the usual squabbles as to who gets to read it first, honestly we behave like a pack of “raptors” over a kill when it comes to wanting to get our claws on the latest edition of this quarterly.

Coming to our Mailbox Very Soon – Prehistoric Times Issue 116

The front cover from Prehistoric Times (issue 116)

The front cover from Prehistoric Times (issue 116)

Picture Credit: Mike Fredericks

For further information on Prehistoric Times and how to subscribe: Prehistoric Times Magazine

The Kentrosaurus figure is posed against a background that looks very familiar to us.  Could that be the Stegosaurus/Allosaurus ravine first seen in the ground-breaking BBC documentary series “Walking with Dinosaurs” (episode two “Time of the Titans”)?

Expect to find more illustrations and information about this particularly spiky member of the Thyreophora inside, along with a feature about a feathered giant, not a Tyrannosaur on this occasion, the extinct creature in question was definitely a member of the Aves.

Mike Frederick tells us that there is quite a considerable British influence on issue 116.  Our chums Anthony Beeson and Mike Howgate have both contributed.  If you ever want an unconventional tour of London then Mike’s your man!

Make it your New Year’s resolution to subscribe.

4 01, 2016

Prehistoric Elephants Roamed the Isle of Wight

By | January 4th, 2016|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Beachcomber Finds Prehistoric Elephant Shoulder Bone

An exceptionally low tide and a sharp-eyed beachcomber combined to permit another addition to be made to the prehistoric fauna of the Isle of Wight.  This small island off England’s southern coast, might be nick-named “the dinosaur fossil capital of Great Britain”, thanks to the wonderful, Early Cretaceous dinosaur fossil finds that have been made, but this new fossil represents a much more recent resident.

Paul Hollingshead was exploring the rocks and sand ledges exposed by a really low tide back in March 2015, when he noticed a strange brown object partially sticking out of the mud.  He had been hoping to pick up some old fishing leads that he could melt down and recycle, but instead he thought he had stumbled upon the bone from a dinosaur.

Paul Hollingshead with his Children and the Prehistoric Elephant Fossil

Paul and his family show off their fossil find behind an Iguanodon exhibit.

Paul and his family show off their fossil find behind an Iguanodont exhibit.

The geology of the Isle of Wight is quite complicated.  Less than 10% of the island has exposures of Cretaceous aged strata (Wealden Group), the majority of the rocks are much more recent, dating from the Pleistocene Epoch for example.  The large fossil bone has been identified as belonging to an extinct straight-tusked elephant  Palaeoloxodon antiquus that roamed this part of Europe during a warm interglacial period when annual average temperatures were at least three degrees Celsius higher than today.  The bone is estimated to be around 100,000 years old – (Ipswichian stage) and it has been put on display at the local museum at Sandown.  In the picture above, finder, Paul shows off the scapula (shoulder bone) with his daughter Lily and son Shay looking on.  In the background is an exhibit of a more famous Isle of Wight resident an Iguanodont.

That Big Elephant Family

Palaeoloxodon antiquus, is just one species in the Palaeoloxodon genus, these elephants were particularly widespread during the Pleistocene with fossils associated with Germany, Cyprus, Malta, Africa and Kent (southern England).  Many of these types of elephant become isolated in southern Europe as sea levels rose leading to dwarf forms having been identified on a number of Mediterranean islands.  The legend of the one-eyed cyclops may originate from prehistoric elephant skull fossil finds.

To read more about the potential link between ancient elephants and monsters from Greek legend: Dwarf Elephants and Legends

The extant elephants, those species that are alive today, are members of the Elephantidae family, but there were a number of closely related other elephant families, all of which are now extinct.

Straight-Tusked Elephant (Amebelodon)

Amebelodon due to be retired in 2013.

A straight-tusked “shovel-tusker”

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Commenting on his fossil discovery, Mr Hollingshead stated:

“I remember it was a big five-metre tide, so I knew the water would go out a long way, when I saw what looked like a bit of bone showing from the sand.  I stopped and realised it was a bit bigger, so I started clearing all of the sand and stones away from it.  I was shocked how big it was and spent around two and a half-hours digging it out.  I was hoping it was a dinosaur bone, so was quite shocked to find out it was from an elephant.”

The prehistoric elephant shoulder bone has been donated to the island’s Dinosaur Isle Museum.  It has taken several months to prepare the fossil for display as, in geological terms the bone is very young, so young in fact that the permineralisation process (the replacement of organic matter with minerals), is not complete.  Extensive conservation was required to prevent the bone from disintegrating.

Click on the link below to read about a remarkable elephant discovery from Kent.

Giant Prehistoric Straight-Tusked Elephant from Kent: Homo heidelbergensis and the Straight-Tusked, Giant Elephant from Kent

3 01, 2016

Palaeontology Predictions 2015 – So How Did We Do?

By | January 3rd, 2016|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page, Press Releases|0 Comments

Looking Back on our Palaeontology Predictions for 2015

Lots of people are looking ahead and making New Year resolutions in early January, but for team members at Everything Dinosaur who are discussing the list of predictions for what we think is going to happen in palaeontology and related fields over the next twelve months, time to look back and re-visit our list of predictions for 2015.  Each year, just for a bit of fun, we try to second guess what news stories we will cover on this blog, can we predict dinosaur discoveries, new fossil finds, trends in model collecting and so forth?  Some years we can be quite successful, other years we end up way off the mark.

Here is the list of our 2015 palaeontology predictions with notes as to how well (or how badly) we did:

The 2015 Palaeontology Predictions

  1. It’s a “Jurassic World” – a big year for dinosaur movies
  2. Metallome Research Provides Fresh Fossil Insights – identifying elements in fossils
  3. Stegosaurus into the Limelight – lots of research on the Stegosaurus genus
  4. “Good Day” to Aussie Dinosaurs – more Australian dinosaur fossil discoveries
  5. More Insights into Human Evolution – genetics leads the way when it comes to understanding our origins
  6. A New Chinese Pterosaur – new flying reptile discovery from China
  7. Everything Dinosaur social media – targets and more targets on our social media platforms
  8. Malaysia Firmly on the Dinosaur Map – further dinosaur discoveries from Malaysia in 2015
  9. New species of Horned North American dinosaur Announced – further additions to the ceratopsids predicted
  10. Fossil Finding is Child’s Play – child in the UK will make an important fossil discovery

It is quite an eclectic list, one year on let’s see how we did…

“Jurassic World” – we confidently predicted that this film from Universal Studios – a re-boot of the “Jurassic Park” franchise would do really well and surprise, surprise we were not wrong.  The film which had its premier in June put dinosaurs very much on the map once again and introduced prehistoric animals to a whole new generation of dinosaur fans.  Such was the impact of the movie that the “bad girl” of the film – Indominus rex ended up at number three in our annual compilation of the top ten prehistoric animals of the year.  The “Good Dinosaur” was not included in our palaeontology predictions list, not all dinosaur themed movies are a guarantee of cinema success it seems.

A “Good Year” for Dinosaur Movies (Not Including the “Good Dinosaur”)

Top film in terms of global box office receipts.

Top films in terms of global box office receipts (millions of USD)

Picture Credit: Universal Studios with additional annotation by Everything Dinosaur

“Jurassic World” was officially the top grossing film in 2015 with box office sales in excess of $652 million dollars, although we expect to see the new Star Wars film overtake it in next two days or so.

Metallome and Stegosaurus – not too bad with these two either, back in June we reported on work from Manchester University that is helping scientists to understand the biological processes of long extinct creatures thanks to research undertaken in the field of biometal preservation.  Stegosaurus did step into the limelight, this time thanks to London Natural History museum which published the first of a succession of studies, on their fantastic Stegosaurus stenops exhibit.  Other articles on Stegosaurus written by our team members this year focused on those iconic plates.

To read more about biometals: Dinosaur Chemical Ghosts

Stegosaurus steps into the spotlight: Sophie Weighs in at 1.6 tonnes

How to tell the boys from the girls when it comes to Stegosaurs: Did Boy Stegosaurs Have Bigger Plates than the Girls?

 Australian Dinosaurs and Human Evolution – we had to wait until December for a new dinosaur genus, but the wait was worth it as sheep-sized Kunbarrasaurus ieversi was erected following an in-depth analysis of skull material formerly assigned to Minmi paravertebra.

Australia’s Newest Dinosaur – Kunbarrasaurus

Kunbarrasaurus ieversi of the Cretaceous (Australia).

Kunbarrasaurus ieversi of the Cretaceous (Australia).

Picture Credit: University of Queensland/Australian Geographic

As for our prediction related to human evolution, specifically the unravelling of the oldest genome known to date from the likes of the Max Planck Institute, we were a little off target with this one, plaudits in 2015 to the brilliant work behind Homo naledi, another hominin from South Africa.

To read about H. naledi South Africa’s Latest Hominin Discovery

A New Chinese Pterosaur and our Social Media Targets – again, a bit of a mixed bag this one, we reported on dinosaur discoveries from China, notably a new leptoceratopsid and an oviraptorid, but we did not feature any new Chinese Pterosaur discoveries on this blog in 2015.  We were as accurate with this prediction as all those model making companies which insist in putting teeth into their Pteranodon replicas.  As for our social media targets, they deserve a separate blog article all of their own but in summary:

  • School Blog Articles – target missed (boo)
  • School Blog Downloads – just about hit target (hooray)
  • Facebook “Likes” – so proud of smashing this target (a big thank you to all our Facebook fans) – (huge hooray)
  • Twitter – more tweets, followers target reached, but we are not following as many other feeds as we predicted (would you believe half a hooray)?
  • Youtube Videos – let’s just say this needs more of a focus in 2016 (down with the “Good Dinosaur” when it comes to this one…)
  • Pinterest – we have had a very busy year with our pins! (hooray)

Malaysia Firmly on the Dinosaur Map and New Species of North American Horned Dinosaur – after reporting on Malaysia’s first dinosaur back in 2014, we confidently predicted that more dinosaur fossils from that country would be reported on this blog in 2015.  Sadly, we did not receive any press releases, or papers related to Malaysian dinosaurs.  This is one prediction we got wrong.  Time to cheer ourselves up with the good news that unsurprisingly, there were a number of Late Cretaceous horned dinosaurs announced in 2015, two immediately spring to mind, for further information:

Regaliceratops: A Right Royal Rumble

Wendy Sloboda is honoured with new horned dinosaur: Wendiceratops pinhornensis from Canada

A Cast of Wendiceratops on Display in 2015

A reconstruction of the dinosaur's skeleton.

A reconstruction of the dinosaur’s skeleton.

Picture Credit: Royal Ontario Museum (Toronto, Canada)

Fossil Finding is Child’s Play – oh dear, despite meeting lots of young dinosaur fans last year, we did not report on any new notable fossil discoveries made by a young person in the UK.  No marks here, but honourable mentions to undergraduate Student Sam Davies who found more pieces of the new Welsh Theropod dinosaur: “Lucky” Welsh Find! and to Everything Dinosaur team members who helped out at a school’s science conference and invited children to go on an indoor fossil hunt: Celebrating Science with Blackpool Schools

To read the article in which we set out our 2015 palaeontology predictions: Palaeontology and Fossil Predictions for 2015

We will publish our list of palaeontology predictions for 2016 shortly.

2 01, 2016

In Praise of Britain’s Regional Museums

By | January 2nd, 2016|Dinosaur Fans, Educational Activities, Main Page, Press Releases|0 Comments

Seek Out These Hidden Gems

According to VisitBritain, tourism to the UK swells our nation’s coffers by some £26.2 billion annually.  In 2014, there were 34.38 tourist visits to Britain, feedback from tourists be they Americans, Australians, visitors from France, Germany or ever increasingly from China, cite our country’s wonderful history and heritage as one of the key reasons for their visit.  However, for us Brits the fact that we have such a rich, varied and fantastic heritage sometimes gets overlooked.

We are very fortunate in this country to have some amazing regional museums, each telling the story of a small part of the British Isles, providing insight and access to some remarkable historical objects and artefacts.  Take as an example, Dorking Museum and Heritage Centre, based as you might guess, close to the busy centre of the Surrey town of Dorking.  For anyone with an interest in palaeontology, geology, or indeed for anyone eager to learn how these two sciences came into being, such places can provide a wonderful opportunity to indulge an inquiring mind.

Dorking 130 Million Years Ago

Dinosaurs once roamed this part of the world, in fact it is thanks to the fossil discoveries from such famous geological deposits that form the Wealden Group, that scientists in Georgian Times first had the opportunity to study the fossilised bones of the prehistoric reptiles that were to become known as the dinosaurs.  The county of Surrey played an important role in the early days of palaeontology.  Add the fact that overlying these continental deposits of clays and sandstones is the equally important Lower Greensand Formation, a later sequence of deposits formed as sea levels rose, permitting this part of England (including Dorking) to became home to a vast array of exotic and for the most part, now extinct creatures.

Dorking in the Early Cretaceous

Dinosaurs once roamed Surrey (England).

Dinosaurs once roamed Surrey (England).

Picture Credit: Natural History Museum (London)

The picture above shows a large Ornithopod (Iguanodon) in the foreground, with two Hypsilophodont dinosaurs close by.  An armoured Polacanthus slowly makes its way across the fern rich lowlands, whilst close to the shoreline a Theropod dinosaur can be seen consuming its latest kill.  The posture of the dinosaurs shown in this illustration is now a little outdated, but fossils collected from the various quarries that surround Dorking provide ample evidence that such creatures did indeed roam this part of the world some 130 million years ago.

On Display at Dorking Museum and Heritage Centre – Tail Bones from an Iguanodontid

On display at the museum.

On display at the museum.  Tail bones recently re-labelled as Mantellisaurus.

Picture Credit: Dorking Museum and Heritage Centre

One of the local fossil finds is the tail of an Iguanodon, a Wealden dinosaur, found during the excavation of a well at Capel in 1891.  It is on show at the Museum in the original case built for its display.  This exhibit has recently been reclassified as the caudal vertebrae from Mantellisaurus (M. atherfieldensis), a dinosaur related to Iguanodon but regarded as s separate genus.  Many of the fossils within the Museum’s collection were donated to the founding committee of the Dorking Museum back in 1948 by Roland Cubitt, the 3rd Baron Ashcombe.  The “Ashcombe Collection” consists of an eclectic range of minerals and fossils assembled by George Cubitt, the 1st Baron Ashcombe, in the 19th century.  A large part of this important geological collection is made up of local chalk fossils, many of them unearthed during chalk quarrying at nearby Ranmore.  The 1st Baron Ashcombe rewarded employees for delivering fossils to him and shared his discoveries with early experts, including the anatomist Richard Owen, who was influential in the foundation of the London Natural History Museum.  The fossil collection on show at the Dorking Museum and Heritage Centre is fondly known as ‘Lord Ashcombe’s teeth’.  There are particular strengths in crustaceans and fish, but the collection also includes teeth and bones of mammoths, woolly rhinoceri and the like from the Ice Age gravels of the River Mole.

The Fossilised Teeth of a Woolly Rhino

The molars of an ancient Woolly Rhino.

The molars of an ancient Woolly Rhino.

Picture Credit: Dorking Museum and Heritage Centre

Ice Age Dorking

The well defined roots of the molars can be easily seen in the photograph, particularly in the tooth at the top of the picture.  The gravels of the River Mole still occasionally yield Pleistocene fossils as the river winds its way through the valley before it links up with the River Thames at Hampton Court.  The valley and its surrounding geology, including that all important Cretaceous Wealden Group, are the focus of attention of the Mole Valley Geological Society, but the Dorking Museum gives visitors the chance to explore the geology of the town itself as regular tours are conducted through the impressive South Street Caves.  An opportunity to view the chalk formations of southern England from a very different perspective and to indulge in a little bit of local history as well.

To visit the website of the Mole Valley Geological Society: Mole Valley Geological Society

An Outstanding Archive

Around the main museum, themed panels explore periods, events, themes and individuals that have played a part in the history of the town and its surrounding villages.  These are supported by paintings, posters, photographs and artefacts that bring the stories to life.  Digital frames inset into the panels, and things to touch and smell, puzzle and try on all enhance the visitor experience.

The Museum houses an outstanding archive including books, maps, photographs and documents that tells the story of Dorking and the surrounding area.  From important dinosaur discoveries and fossil fish through to historical characters such as William Mullins one of the Pilgrim Fathers that set sail for America, to more recent luminaries such as the composer Ralph Vaughan Williams and the celebrated actor Lord Laurence Olivier.

The Museum is more than just a building, however, it forms a vibrant community resource.  The volunteer team works with local schools, care homes, clubs and youth groups to enhance understanding of the history of the area.  There are talks, walks, activities and visits, as well as resources for reminiscence activities and loan boxes for schools.

Dorking Museum opening times: Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 10am – 4pm.
Admission: Adults £2, Concessions £1, Under-5s free, Family ticket £4.50 (prices correct at time of publication)

For more information on this fascinating regional museum visit: Dorking Museum and Heritage Centre

Emphasising the Importance of Regional Museums

Regional museums are not just the sole preserve of tourists and the curious members of the public keen to learn about local history.  Sometimes, such institutions can play a significant role in research.  For instance, the Ashcombe collection includes a fossilised pliosaur skull found in the Dorking chalk pits during the 1850’s.  Richard Owen, no less, identified it as a pliosaur called Polyptychodon interruptus, but vertebrate palaeontologist Dr Roger Benson (Oxford University) cast doubt on Owen’s conclusion.  Dr Benson states that this specimen has close affinities to a pliosaur genus known from North America and as such, the Dorking specimen might represent the fossilised remains of one of the last of these great marine reptiles to have lived.

To read more about the Dorking specimen research: Pliosaur Skull Links Dorking to Kansas

Funded entirely by public donation and staffed by a dedicated team of enthusiastic volunteers, the Dorking Museum and Heritage Centre is just one of those hidden gems to be found in Britain’s towns and cities.  We at Everything Dinosaur, take time out today to pay tribute to the work of such institutions and to acknowledge their contribution to the preservation of our country’s heritage and for their assistance in the advancement of the science of palaeontology.

To contact the Museum via email: admin@dorkingmuseum.org.uk

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