All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
4 01, 2016

Ancient Elephants on the Isle of Wight

By | January 4th, 2016|General Teaching, Key Stage 3/4|Comments Off on Ancient Elephants on the Isle of Wight

Prehistoric Elephants Once Roamed the Isle of Wight

Giant prehistoric elephants once roamed the Isle of Wight.  Palaeontologists know this thanks to eagle-eyed local resident Paul Hollingshead who spotted a large bone whilst exploring a beach on the western side of the island during an exceptionally low Spring tide.  Mr Hollingshead spotted a brown coloured object sticking out of the sand, he hoped he had found a dinosaur bone, but the fossil is actually part of a scapula (shoulder bone) from a prehistoric elephant identified as Palaeoloxodon antiquus.

Mr Hollingshead and Family Show Off the Fossil 

100,000 year-old elephant bone.

100,000 year-old elephant bone.

The fossil has been dated to around 100,000 years ago.  During this time, our planet was warming up after the previous Ice Age.  Average annual temperatures were around three degrees Celsius higher in the northern hemisphere than they are today.  In this interglacial period (referred to as the Ipswichian in the UK, or the Sangamonian in the United States), elephants and other animals now associated with Africa roamed as far north as Great Britain.

Palaeoloxodon antiquus was about the size of a modern African elephant, unlike the much better known Woolly Mammoth, the Palaeoloxodon elephants had straight-tusks.  The only people who might have seen this prehistoric elephant 100,000 years ago were probably Neanderthals.  Although our species, Homo sapiens had evolved by then, the fossil record suggests that the earliest modern people in Europe did not arrive until some 40,000 years later.

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

Dinosaurs and Fossils Encourage Writing

By | January 2nd, 2016|Early Years Foundation Reception, General Teaching, Key Stage 1/2|Comments Off on Dinosaurs and Fossils Encourage Writing

Dinosaurs and Fossils Encourage Writing

A visit from a fossil expert from Everything Dinosaur can certainly help teaching teams to maintain an interest in hand-writing amongst their charges.  Often it can be difficult for the teacher to think of novel and innovative ways to help children expand their vocabularies and to gain more confidence with their written work.  A school visitor provides the ideal opportunity for the teacher to set a writing themed activity, composing a thank you letter to the person who came to the school.

A Thank You Letter From Alex

Everything Dinosaur receives a thank you letter from a pupil.

Everything Dinosaur receives a thank you letter from a pupil.

Picture Credit: Southglade Primary (Notts)

After a visit to the children at Southglade Primary School (Nottinghamshire), the dinosaur expert at Everything Dinosaur, in collaboration with the teachers, set an extension activity.  The children were challenged to write a thank you letter and the budding young palaeontologists all rose to the challenge.  These types of exercises can prove very beneficial, in addition, with the emphasis on the ICT elements of the curriculum, some of the children could always email a thank you letter to a visitor (so long as permission to do so is obtained first), whilst the remainder of the class can use the more traditional letter writing approach.

Compare and Contrast

This allows the class to compare and contrast the use of email with sending a letter “snail mail”.  For example, which missive got the fastest reply?

  • What are the benefits of email over sending a letter?
  • Why might sending a letter be the better option on some occasions?

Thank you Alex and your classmates for your fantastic letters.

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: [email protected]

1 01, 2016

Happy New Year from Everything Dinosaur

By | January 1st, 2016|General Teaching|Comments Off on Happy New Year from Everything Dinosaur

Have a Wonderful, Inspiring 2016

The countdown to the beginning of the Spring Term 2016 has well and truly started.  Everything Dinosaur team members are all prepared for the dinosaur workshops in schools organised for January.  The majority of the schools that we are visiting have already received lesson plans and had details sent to them about how to maximise the learning opportunities with regards to a visit from one of our dinosaur and fossil experts.  However, all that is for another day, just time to wish all the teachers, home educationalists, senior leadership team members and of course learning support workers such as teaching assistants a happy New Year.

Happy New Year from Everything Dinosaur

Have a wonderful and educational 2016.

Have a wonderful and educational 2016.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Don’t forget, there is an extra day in Spring Term this year (Monday 29th February) a whole extra day of teaching helping to inspire young people towards considering a career in the sciences.

1 01, 2016

Happy New Year from Everything Dinosaur

By | January 1st, 2016|Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Press Releases|0 Comments

Happy New Year from Everything Dinosaur

Just time this morning to wish all our customers, followers, fans and readers a Happy New Year!  We have lots of plans for 2016 and we are really excited about what will be going on at Everything Dinosaur over the coming twelve months.  Naturally, we will do all we can to keep everyone up to date about “Everything” on this blog site and on our social media.

In the meantime, here is our New Year message courtesy of a couple of Diplodocus.

Happy New Year from Everything Dinosaur

Wishing everyone a peaceful, prosperous and above all, a happy New Year.

Wishing everyone a peaceful, prosperous and above all, a happy New Year.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Last year, team members posted up over 365 articles on this blog.  One article for every day of the year.  This year will be have to post up 366 articles if we want to keep this record up, as 2016 is a Leap Year.  However, January is going to be extremely busy for our team members, we have record numbers of schools to visit, lots of preparation to do with regards to new prehistoric animal models coming in (fact sheets and so forth) and hopefully, we will be able to collect some fossils.  We are going to have to be as agile as a pack of Velociraptors to keep up with all the developments.

All that is for another day, for the moment, we shall conclude by wishing everyone a peaceful, prosperous and happy New Year.

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