All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
//June
13 06, 2016

Indian Geologists Discover Dinosaur Footprints

By | June 13th, 2016|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Indian Geologists Discover Dinosaur Footprints

A team of scientists including geologists from the University of Jai Narain Vyas, (formerly known as University of Jodhpur) have discovered a series of three-toed dinosaur footprints in exposed sandstones close to the town of Jaisalmer in the State of  Rajasthan (western India).  The well-preserved fossils represent an unknown type of meat-eating dinosaur, the prints have been assigned to the ichnogenus Eubrontes.

One of the Beautiful Dinosaur Prints from the State of Rajasthan

A three-toed dinosaur footprint from India.

The tridactyl print can be clearly made out, it has been assigned to the ichnogenus Eubrontes.

An ichnogenus, is a genus assigned to an organism that is only known from its trace fossils, in this case from its fossilised footprints.  The Eubrontes ichnogenus specifically refers to Theropod fossilised prints and trackways that are associated with Upper Triassic and Early Jurassic strata.  At the time of writing, Everything Dinosaur team members are not aware of a precise dating for the strata, but extensive surveys mapping the numerous Ammonite genera associated with the marine strata of the Jaisalmer district and specifically the Baisakhi Formation, indicate that the rocks in this part of the world were laid down during the Jurassic.

Eubrontes – A “Taxonomic Wastebasket”

One of the great problems with trace fossils such as a dinosaur footprint, is that it is extremely difficult to assign a species, a genus or even a family to it.  Unless the organism that made the trace is found at the end of the trackway then it is extremely difficult to classify a print such as the ones found in Rajasthan.  Claw marks indicate a meat-eater and the field team members have suggested that the dinosaur that walked across a sandy beach many millions of years ago might have been between five to seven metres in length with a hip height of around two and a half metres or thereabouts, but in the absence of body fossils such as bones and teeth, this is about as good as it is going to get.  Dinosaur footprints assigned to the Eubrontes genus have been found all over the world.  The most famous Eubrontes ichnogenus site is in the western United States, at the St George Dinosaur Discovery Site at Johnson Farm in Utah.  Everything Dinosaur has created a teaching exercise all about how to interpret fossil footprints based on the fossilised trackways found at this location.

To read more about how trace fossils can help to inspire schoolchildren: Humans and Dinosaurs – A “Handy” Way to Tell the Difference

Fossilised Dinosaur Footprints Ascribed to the Eubrontes Genus were Recently Found in France

Dinosaur footprints exposed at low tide (France).

One of the many three-toed prints that can be seen at very low tide.

Picture Credit: GeoWiki

Geologist Virendra Singh Parihar (University of Jai Narain Vyas), hopes that these fossils, along with other fossil material representing crocodiles, gastropods and fish that come from the marine deposits, will help to establish this region of the Thar Desert in western India as an important site for palaeontological research.

A Model of a Typical Jurassic Theropod Dinosaur

Wild Safari Dinos Monolophosaurus  model.

Middle Jurassic Theropod Dinosaur

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The picture above shows a model of the carnivorous dinosaur Monolophosaurus, a member of the Tetanuran Theropod clade, the tracks in India could have been made by a dinosaur that looked something like this.

12 06, 2016

Year 2 Children Make Dinosaur Posters

By | June 12th, 2016|Key Stage 1/2|Comments Off on Year 2 Children Make Dinosaur Posters

Half-term Activities for Year 2 Pupils

Children in Year 2 at Newport Infant School (Shropshire), were given a special task by their teachers for the half-term holiday.  The three classes that make up Year 2 (Hedgehog, Deer and Squirrel) were going to be studying dinosaurs as their term topic for the latter part of the Summer term, so as preparation, the enthusiastic teachers challenged the children to produce a piece of dinosaur themed work over the holidays.  Some children chose to make prehistoric animal models, others decided to build their own “Jurassic World” diorama.  The Everything Dinosaur fossil expert who visited the school to conduct a series of dinosaur themed workshops with the children, was given the opportunity to view the colourful display.

Year 2 Pupils at Newport Infant School Make a Dinosaur Themed Display

A dinosaur world created by Year 2

A dinosaur world created by a pupil in Hedgehog class (Year 2)

Picture Credit: Newport Infant School/Everything Dinosaur

The children had clearly enjoyed this half-term holiday challenge.  We suspect that some mums and dads got involved too.  Our Everything Dinosaur staff member even saw a superb chocolate cake that had been baked by young Will and his mum.  It looked very tasty indeed!

One Pupil Brought a Dinosaur Inspired Chocolate Cake

An inspiring dinosaur chocolate cake.

Could this be a “choco-lot-saurus”?

Picture Credit: Newport Infant School/Everything Dinosaur

Children Make Dinosaur Posters

 A number of children had produced science posters all about dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures.  The posters showed that the pupils had undertaken a considerable amount of research into this topic before creating their poster.  Grace for example, produced a poster that showed different types of dinosaur and asked questions that our fossil expert was able to answer during the dinosaur workshop with Grace’s class.

A Number of Pupils Made Super Dinosaur Posters Over Half-Term

A dinosaur poster created by a Year 2 pupil.

Grace (Hedgehog class) made a super dinosaur poster.

Picture Credit: Grace – Newport Infant School/Everything Dinosaur

With an enthusiastic teaching team and such a carefully crafted scheme of work the pupils in Year 2 at Newport Infant School are going to have an exciting end to their school year.

12 06, 2016

Natural History Museum Diplodocus and Kentrosaurus

By | June 12th, 2016|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page, Press Releases|0 Comments

Dinosaur Collection Diplodocus and Kentrosaurus

An old friend of Everything Dinosaur is back in stock, the Natural History Museum dinosaur collection set featuring Diplodocus and the armoured dinosaur Kentrosaurus.  It is great to see this dinosaur model set that features two Late Jurassic herbivores back on the shelves of the warehouse.

The Natural History Museum Dinosaur Collection Diplodocus and Kentrosaurus

The Kentrosaurus and Diplodocus dinosaur models.

The Diplodocus and Kentrosaurus dinosaur models.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To view this model set and the rest of dinosaur replicas in this range available from Everything Dinosaur: Dinosaur Replicas – The Natural History Museum

The Diplodocus model measures around forty centimetres in length whilst the Kentrosaurus, (which was a much smaller dinosaur), measures a fraction under ten centimetres long.

Late Jurassic Dinosaurs

Although these dinosaurs lived at the same time, palaeontologists are quietly confident that they never co-existed.  Fossils of Diplodocus are associated with Upper Jurassic deposits of the western United States, whilst Kentrosaurus fossils have been found in Tanzania.  Diplodocus is one of the most famous of all the long-necked dinosaurs.  It is so well known, in part, because a cast of a Diplodocus was donated to the London Natural History Museum by the Scottish-American philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.  This 87 foot long replica greeted visitors to the museum as it was located in the centre of the Museum’s Hintze Hall, close to the main entrance.  However, in 2015 a decision was made to relocate “Dippy” as the specimen had become affectionately known as and replace it with the skeleton of a Blue Whale (Balaenoptera musculus).

Kentrosaurus is a member of the Stegosaur family, it was formally named in described 101 years ago by the German palaeontologist Edwin Hennig (in 1915).  These dinosaur models are superficially similar, both have spikes running down the back to the tail.  Many palaeontologists now believe that Diplodocus may have had narrow, pointed spikes lining the hips and located down the long tail.  Although this view is not universally accepted as Everything Dinosaur’s latest illustration of “double beam” shows:

An Illustration of Diplodocus from the Everything Dinosaur Database

A Diplodocus drawing.

A drawing of Diplodocus “double beam”.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur commented:

“It is always a pleasure to see this model set on the shelves in our warehouse and the Natural History Museum dinosaur collection remains a very popular model range amongst collectors and dinosaur fans alike.  Diplodocus and Kentrosaurus may have never encountered each other, but they seem very happy together in this well crafted model set.”

11 06, 2016

Terrestrial Pterosaurs

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

Gladocephaloideus – Getting to Grips with Terrestrial Pterosaurs

Terrestrial Pterosaurs might sound like a contradiction in terms, after all, Pterosaurs are also referred to in popular culture as “flying reptiles”.  However, a number of Pterosaur families seem to have been better adapted to life on “Terra firma” than other types.  For example, some have stronger hind limbs, an adaptation indicating a substantial amount of time walking around rather than flying.  Others have more robust extremities, once again, suggesting a more terrestrial existence.  Although scientists still debate how the Pterosauria Order should be structured, many Pterosaur workers have united a number of families under the sub-group termed Lophocratia “crested heads”.  Lophocratia (pronounced low-foe-kray-tia), consists of the more terrestrial adapted members of the Pterosauria and new research published in the on line, academic journal PLOS One is helping to re-define one group of flying reptiles – the Ctenochasmatoidea.

Fossils and a Line Drawing of the Pterosaur Gladocephaloideus

Gladocephaloideus fossil and line drawing.

The fossilised bones and a line drawing of Gladocephaloideus.

Picture Credit: PLOS One

The Enigmatic Ctenochasmatoidea

The earliest of the Lophocratia Pterosaurs are the ctenochasmatoids (pronounced sten-oh-kas-ma-toids) a globally distributed and very diverse group of flying reptiles.  The very first Pterosaur to be described, Pterodactylus, whose fossils come from the famous Solnhofen limestone deposits of Germany, has been assigned to this family and fossils of this type of flying reptile have been found in strata that varies tremendously in age.  Ctenochasmatoids have been reported from Upper Jurassic deposits through to Lower Cretaceous deposits, representing a geological time span for the family of some fifty million years or so.

A team of Chinese scientists in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Bratislava (Slovak Republic), have published a paper on a recently discovered Gladocephaloideus jingangshanensis juvenile specimen that is helping to cement the Gladocephaloideus genus firmly within the Ctenochasmatidae.  The fossil comes from the famous Lower Cretaceous strata of the Jiufotang Formation in Liaoning Province (north-eastern China).  Although a total of nine ctenochasmatoids have been reported from this part of the world, making the Jehol Biota one of the most Pterosaur rich ancient biotas currently known, most of the fossil specimens consists of either partial skulls or post-cranial material.  This, the second fossil example of Gladocephaloideus jingangshanensis to be found, is nearly complete and as such it has allowed scientists to place the Gladocephaloideus genera firmly into the ctenochasmatoids as well as providing important clues as to how the family tree of these Pterosaurs (the phylogeny) should be constructed.

A Juvenile Pterodactylus Fossil (Ctenochasmatoid Pterosaur)

A Pterodactylus specimen from Solnhofen (Germany)

A Pterodactylus sp. fossil.

Picture Credit: Natural History Museum (London)

The researchers conclude that Gladocephaloideus is very probably a sister taxon to Pterofiltrus a Chinese Pterosaur described in 2011.

As to the ecological niche occupied by this varied group, it has been suggested that these Pterosaurs with their strange dentition may have filled the role of wading birds as found in modern ecosystems.

10 06, 2016

Dinosaurs with Newport Infant School

By | June 10th, 2016|Educational Activities, Main Page, Teaching|0 Comments

Year 2 Study Dinosaurs

Thursday was “Dinosaur Day” for the Year 2 children at Newport Infant School (Shropshire) and in preparation for their Summer Term topic the three classes (Deer, Squirrel and Hedgehog) had been challenged to produce a dinosaur themed piece of work over the half-term holiday.  A tweet had been sent out by the school reminding the children to bring in their prehistoric creations and space was set aside in the well-appointed classrooms so that the various models, prehistoric scenes, drawings and posters could be displayed.

Year 2 Children Made Mini “Jurassic Worlds” for the Summer Term Dinosaur Topic

A dinosaur model made by Year 2 children.

A mini dinosaur world made by Year 2 children.

Picture Credit: Newport Infant School Hedgehog Class

There were lots of colourful dinosaur displays and Everything Dinosaur felt quite at home when they visited the school to work with the three classes over the course of the day to provide an appropriate “wow” activity to help to enthuse pupils and teachers alike over the new term topic.  Several children had created special science posters.  These demonstrated that a number of the children had a lot of pre-knowledge when it comes to dinosaurs, their enthusiasm for the subject was very clear and our time working with each class in the spacious hall whizzed by.

Some Fine Examples of Science Posters Featuring Prehistoric Animals from Year 2

Year 2 children and their dinosaur posters.

Children made dinosaur models and posters over the half-term holiday.

Picture Credit: Newport Infant School Hedgehog Class

 The posters were beautifully illustrated with dinosaurs such as Triceratops, Spinosaurus and Tyrannosaurus rex proving to be amongst the most popular.  The additional resources our fossil expert brought with him will help the children to recall and remember prehistoric animal facts, the posters are a wonderful example of non-fiction writing in a Key Stage 1 class.  During our workshops, we challenged the children to write a story about Triceratops coming to lunch, the pupils were amazed when it was revealed how much one of the these huge horned dinosaurs could eat in a day!  This extension activity is aimed at helping the pupils gain greater confidence with their story writing.

Flying Reptiles in Hedgehog Class

Year 2 make prehistoric animal models.

Year 2 make prehistoric animal models including a wonderful Pterosaur.

Picture Credit: Newport Infants School Hedgehog Class

The picture above shows a model of a T. rex in the background with a flying reptile (Pterosaur) replica in the foreground.  It looks like the Year 2 children had a very busy half-term holiday preparing their exhibits for the dinosaur term topic.   Flying reptiles (Pterosaurs), are not dinosaurs, although, like dinosaurs they are reptiles and palaeontologists are quite confident that these two types of animal were closely related.  Both dinosaurs and flying reptiles laid eggs, and some children had even created prehistoric animal eggs to go with their displays.  We were most impressed with a model of green dinosaur with a long tail that was accompanied by a large paper mache egg that was full of facts about dinosaurs.

A Dinosaur Model with an Egg Full of Dinosaur Facts

Hedgehog class design dinosaurs.

A dinosaur model with an egg full of dinosaur facts.

Picture Credit: Newport Infants School Hedgehog Class

Top marks to all the children in Squirrel, Deer and Hedgehog class for making such fantastic prehistoric animal displays.  There were so many amazing things to see, the Everything Dinosaur team member did not have time to photograph them all, but in between the workshops and over the lunch time he did have the opportunity to see the classrooms and to marvel at all the super drawings, posters and models.

9 06, 2016

The English Science Curriculum

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

What Will a High Quality Science Education Achieve?

This week Everything Dinosaur team members participated in a North West Science Alliance meeting.  It took place at the magnificent Preston iSTEM Centre at Preston’s College (Lancashire, northern England).  The ISTEM (innovation in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths), Centre is a fantastic £13 million facility that provides educational opportunities for some 600 students.  A diverse range of courses are offered from traditional “A” levels to qualifications in electrical engineering, laboratory practice, dental nursing and creative and digital media.

The great thing about the iSTEM Centre is that it is not just a shiny, well-appointed, new building.  It is a bespoke learning environment that provides students with real work experiences.  It manages to bridge the student world with that of the world of work.   Many local employers have grasped the Centre’s ethos of delivering top class training and forged meaningful, long-term relationships with the course providers.

We praise all those involved in this important undertaking.

What Does the English Science Curriculum Contribute?

At the meeting, as we listened to the speakers, our thoughts turned to Everything Dinosaur’s own work in schools and later, in the office, we asked the question what does the new English science curriculum hope to contribute?

How to Forge the Next Generation of Scientists?

Developing scientists in schools.

Developing the next generation of scientists.

Picture Credit: Lego

Hopefully, by providing a high quality, challenging science education for children, a science education that is broad-based and led by motivated and enthusiastic teaching staff we shall be able to:

  • Encourage pupils to understand how science can be used to explain what is happening as well as helping to solve problems
  • Promote a fascination and respect for the natural world
  • Equip children with life-long learning skills
  • Inspire pupils to ask challenging questions and to work scientifically

When working with classes delivering dinosaur and fossil themed workshops we try to inspire and motivate the next generation of scientists.  With tactile, kinaesthetic lessons we aim to help children develop their scientific knowledge as well as to develop an understanding of scientific concepts.

Helping Students to Gain an Insight into Scientific Working

Model making - Neanderthal.

Helping to inspire the next generation (Neanderthal skull modelling).

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Gaining Confidence/Developing Knowledge

At Everything Dinosaur we tailor our workshops to meet the learning needs of the class and we take care to ensure that what we deliver compliments the teaching scheme of work.  Our aim is to develop scientific understanding and to give students an appreciation of the scientific method.

For further information on Everything Dinosaur’s dinosaur themed workshops in school: Contact Everything Dinosaur Request Further Information

Applying and Using the Skills of a Scientist

When working with a class or a group of students, our qualified teaching team aim to develop good scientific practice and encourage the use of scientific terms accurately as well as encouraging participants to observe, assess the evidence and hypothesise.  We want to promote an ethos of gathering and recording evidence, making evaluations, analysing trends and drawing appropriate conclusions.

In our own small way, Everything Dinosaur is making a positive contribution to science teaching.

8 06, 2016

Time to Debunk Mammals Totally Dominated by Dinosaurs Myth

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

Mammals Began to Flourish Before the Dinosaur Extinction

Our congratulations to Elis Newham, a PhD student at the University of Southampton and fellow PhD candidate David Grossnickle (University of Chicago), who have published a scientific paper which effectively debunks the idea that it was only after the dinosaurs became extinct that mammals began to diversify into their myriad forms.  Writing in the “Proceedings of the Royal Society – Biology”, the scientists conclude that mammals began to diversify some ten to twenty million years before the End Cretaceous extinction event that saw the demise of the non-avian members of the Dinosauria.

The Popular Misconception that Dinosaur Extinction Led to the Rise of Mammals

Unless there is a proactive plan to tackle global climate change a mass extinction event cannot be ruled out.

A mammal takes up home in the skull of a dead Tyrannosaur.

Picture Credit: Mark Garlick/Science Photo Library

Mammalia Suffered in the End Cretaceous Extinction Event Too

In addition to concluding that the furry mammals were not destined to forever lurk and hide in the shadows whilst the dinosaurs roamed, the scientists have also noted that a number of lineages of mammals became extinct at or around the time of the demise of the dinosaurs.  It seems that the mammals too, suffered during the Cretaceous-Palaeogene extinction event, albeit not as much as the dinosaurs.

An Extraterrestrial Impact and Global Climate Change Culminated in a Mass Extinction Event Around 66 Million Years Ago

Spelling the end for most of the Squamata

Spelling the end for most of the Dinosauria (a few of our furry friends too).

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

A Popular Belief But a Mistaken One

Thanks to countless prehistoric animal books, dinosaur documentaries and films, it is a popular belief amongst members of the public that mammalian diversity was suppressed during the Mesozoic, the little, insectivorous mammals could not radiate out and become more diverse as the terrestrial ecosystems were dominated by reptiles, specifically those “terrible lizards” – the dinosaurs.  It was only after the dinosaurs died out, that the mammals were able to exploit all those parts of the food chain now vacated and this led to an explosion of different types of mammals during the early part of the Cenozoic.

Elis Newham, a student in Engineering and the Environment at Southampton University explained:

“The traditional view is that mammals were suppressed during the ‘age of the dinosaurs’ and underwent a rapid diversification immediately following the extinction of the dinosaurs.  However, our findings were that Therian mammals, the ancestors of most modern mammals [placentals and marsupials], were already diversifying considerably before the extinction event and the event also had a considerably negative impact on mammal diversity.”

Over the Last Few Decades More Fossils of Mammals Have Been Found

Early arboreal mammal from north-eastern China.

Early arboreal mammal from north-eastern China.

Picture Credit: University of Chicago (illustration by April Neander)

The picture above shows an illustration and skeletal drawing of the mouse-sized, Middle Jurassic, arboreal mammaliaform Agilodocodon scansorius, whose fossils come from China.  Over the last two decades or so, a lot more fossil material has been found relating to early mammals and this evidence indicates that throughout much of the Mesozoic, the ancestors of modern mammals were quite ecological diverse.  The research, leading to the naming of A. scansorius was undertaken in part, by scientists from the University of Chicago.

To read more about this study: New Fossil Finds Indicates Widespread Early Mammaliaform Diversity

An Old Theory

Previously, scientists had theorised that as many of the early mammal fossils represented small shrew-sized creatures that were insectivorous, there did not seem to be too much mammalian diversity.  However, as more and more early mammal fossils have been discovered, so palaeontologists have became increasingly aware of a much bigger variety of mammals living alongside the dinosaurs.

The researchers examined the teeth (specifically the molars), of hundreds of early mammal specimens in museum collections.   The pair found that the mammals that lived in the Late Cretaceous had a wide variety of different tooth shapes, indicating a wide variation in diet.  Working out the diets of Late Cretaceous mammals proved vital in the researchers identifying something unexpected regarding the extinction of mammalian genera at the Cretaceous-Palaeogene boundary.

Selective Extinction of Early Mammals

The mass extinction event may not have been the perfect opportunity for the rise of the mammals as many scientists and most members of the public had previously thought.  This study suggests that early mammals were affected by a selective extinction at the same time the dinosaurs became extinct.  Many mammals with a highly specialised diet died out, the generalists that could adapt to a wide range of food seemed better able to survive the global catastrophe.

Both authors expressed surprise when their data showed that mammals were initially negatively impacted by the mass extinction event.

Lead author of the paper, David Grossnickle remarked:

“I fully expected to see more diverse mammals immediately after the extinction.  I wasn’t expecting to see any sort of drop.  It didn’t match the traditional view that after the extinction, mammals hit the ground running.  It’s part of the reason why I went back to study it further, it seemed wrong.”

Searching for the Reasons Behind Pre-extinction Mammalia Diversification

The reasons behind the mammals’ pre-extinction diversification are unclear.  The authors comment on a possible link between the increasing types of mammals and the rise of the Angiosperms (flowering plants).  Flowering plants might have provided new sources of food for small animals such as seeds, fruit and flowers.  An increase in the number of insects as the flowers evolved may have also helped the Mammalia as many of the early mammals were insect eaters.

Back in the spring, Everything Dinosaur published a blog article which looked at some research that suggested seed eating may have helped some types of bird survive the Cretaceous mass extinction event.

To read this article: Seed-eating May Have Helped Birds Survive

7 06, 2016

Lucy Had Neighbours

By | June 7th, 2016|Key Stage 3/4|Comments Off on Lucy Had Neighbours

New Study Suggests Lots of Early Hominins

A new study published this week in the academic journal “The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (United States)”, concludes that the early hominins of Africa were much more speciose than previously thought.  The most famous early human fossil, “Lucy” so named as the field team were listening to “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” by the Beatles when her fragmentary fossils first came to light, a member of the species Australopithecus afarensis, had plenty of other types of early hominin for company.

A Reconstruction of the Facial Features of an Australopithecus afarensis

The A. afarensis called "Lucy"

“Lucy” a reconstruction of the face of A. afarensis.

Picture Credit: The Cleveland Museum of Natural History/John Gurche

A Complicated Family Tree

The analysis of the current known early hominin fossil material was conducted by Dr. Yohannes Haile-Selassie and Dr. Denise Su (The Cleveland Museum of Natural History), in conjunction with their colleague from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Dr. Stephanie Melillo.  In a review of the fossil evidence from Chad, Ethiopia and Kenya, the scientists suggest that around 3.6 million years ago, a number of ancient hominin species co-existed. It seems that “Lucy” and her kind had plenty of company.

Hominin Diversity in the Late Miocene and Pliocene Epochs

Pliocene Epoch hominin diversity.

A number of hominin species may have co-existed in the Pliocene Epoch.

Picture Credit: PNAS with additional annotation by Everything Dinosaur

The scientists conclude that more fossil material needs to be found to help establish the evolutionary relationships of these species and to determine how these early hominins competed for resources.

7 06, 2016

Sorting Out Lucy’s Neighbours

By | June 7th, 2016|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

Pliocene Hominin Diversity – Neighbours for Lucy

Anthropologists have discovered that the human family tree, that branch of the hominins that led ultimately to our own species H. sapiens, is very complicated.  We might like to think that our own evolution was pre-destined, once the first apes that left the trees and started to walk upright on a regular basis, our big-brained species was bound to come along, but that does not seem to be the case.  For example, scientists have now concluded that there were at least four species of hominin present in Europe and Asia up until relatively recently.  In a new paper, published in the “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences”, researchers have reviewed Late and Middle Pliocene hominin fossils and concluded that there were multiple species of early hominins around between 3.8 and 3.3 million years ago.  It seems that “Lucy” the most famous example of Australopithecus afarensis had company – lots of company in fact.

Late Miocene and Pliocene Hominin Chronological Distribution

A number of early hominin species have been identified.

Late Miocene and Pliocene hominin diversity.

Picture Credit: PNAS with additional annotation by Everything Dinosaur

All Early Hominin Fossils Packed into a Suitcase

Four decades ago, the number of early hominin fossils discovered in eastern Africa was very low.  We recall anthropologists joking, but with some degree of truth, that the entire east African hominin fossil record could be packed into a single, large suitcase.  However, recent fossil discoveries have greatly increased the amount of fossil material known and raised the possibility that early hominins in Africa were at least as speciose as later members of the human family tree.

The graph above plots the current recognised species of Late Miocene and Early Pliocene hominin species over the last seven million years or so.  The different coloured columns represent different taxa and the length of each column equates to the approximate length of time that each taxon is known to have existed.  Dotted parts indicate uncertainty in the age of a taxon or the absence of fossils from that particular time span.  Lucy, as a member of the Australopithecines (southern apes), and an A. afarensis represents a species that lived from approximately 3.9 million years ago to around 3 million years ago.  The solid, black line forming a rectangle shape on the timeline around 3.6 million years ago shows the presence of multiple hominin species during the Middle Pliocene.  It seems that Australopithecus afarensis had lots of other hominin species for company.

In the diagram above, the dashed rectangle situated around the 6 million years ago mark, indicates possible hominin diversity as far back as the Late Miocene, if the three earliest named hominin species represent different taxa.

An Update on Pliocene hominin fossils from Africa

The authors of the scientific paper, Dr. Yohannes Haile-Selassie and Dr. Denise Su (The Cleveland Museum of Natural History), in collaboration with their colleague Dr. Stephanie Melillo (Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany), have compiled a detailed review of the current fossil material of early hominins, collating data from fossil discoveries from Ethiopia, Chad and Kenya.  This review demonstrates the complexity of the early hominin evolutionary tree and it raises the intriguing question, how did these early humans relate to each other?  For example, was there niche partitioning taking place?  How did these different species compete for resources?

Lead author of the report, Dr. Yohannes Haile-Selassie (Curator of Physical Anthropology at The Cleveland Museum of Natural History), commented:

“It is now obvious that more than one species of early hominin co-existed during Lucy’s time.  The question now is not whether Australopithecus afarensis, the species to which the famous Lucy belongs, was the only potential human ancestor species that roamed in what is now the Afar region of Ethiopia during the middle Pliocene, but how these species are related to each other and exploited available resources.”

Australopithecus deyiremeda

The idea that a number of Australopithecines co-existed is not new.  Back in 2015, Everything Dinosaur reported on the discovery of Australopithecus deyiremeda by a team of researchers led by Dr. Yohannes Haile-Selassie.  This new species was named after four fragmentary pieces of fossil jaw bone complete with teeth, which represented three individuals had been discovered in the Woranso-Mille area of the Afar region in March 2011.

Dr. Yohannes Haile-Selassie Holds a Cast of the Jaws of Australopithecus deyiremeda

A cast of the jaws of A. deyiremeda.

A cast of the jaws of A. deyiremeda an Australopithecine from northern Ethiopia.

Picture Credit: Laura Dempsey

To read about the Australopithecus deyiremeda research: A New Face to the Human Family Tree

Putting an Evolutionary Foot In It!

The paucity of the fossil record and the highly fragmentary nature of most of the known fossil material makes interpreting the fossil record extremely difficult.  Perhaps the most compelling evidence for the presence of more than one type of early human species in eastern Africa between 3.8 and 3.3 million years ago, was the discovery of a partial foot (the Burtele foot), in the Woranso-Mille region of Afar, the same area where the jaws of A. deyiremeda were discovered.

The Burtele Foot Fossil (Afar Region of Ethiopia)

A partial right foot with an opposable big toe representing an as yet not described species of early human.

Picture Credit: The Cleveland Museum of Natural History/ Dr. Yohannes Haile-Selassie

The specimen (BRT-VP-2/73), is photographed above in the correct anatomical position.  These bones represent the right foot and the bones on the left of the picture are the big toe (hallux).  Researchers have concluded that this digit was opposable, so the foot was also used for grasping.  The foot bones, referred to as the “Burtele foot”,  come from strata that is little younger than the strata where the jaw bone fossils of Australopithecus deyiremeda were found.  However, it is possible that these two species may have co-existed.

The foot represents a species that was contemporaneous with A. afarensis and probably several other early hominin species too.  Assessment of the walking abilities of the creature represented by the Burtele foot, indicates that its locomotion was different from that of A. afarensis, perhaps the foot bones provide evidence to support the idea that a more ancient human-like species, Ardipithecus ramidus persisted much longer than previously thought, or these foot bones could represent an as yet unknown species.

Commenting on the need to continue to explore eastern Africa to help unravel this early human puzzle, Dr. Stephanie Melillo of the Max Planck Institute stated:

“We continue to search for more fossils.  We know a lot about the skeleton of A. afarensis, but for the other Middle Pliocene species, most of the anatomy remains unknown.  Ultimately, larger sample sizes will be the key to sorting out which species are present and how they are related.  This makes every fossil discovery all the more exciting.”

6 06, 2016

Best Prehistoric Animal Models of 2015

By | June 6th, 2016|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur Products, Everything Dinosaur videos, Main Page, Press Releases, Product Reviews|0 Comments

The Dinosaur Toy Forum – Votes on Prehistoric Animal Models

Those discerning model collectors and prehistoric animal enthusiasts at The Dinosaur Toy Forum have voted on their top ten replicas that were introduced in 2015.  This eclectic group of knowledgeable collectors have weighed up the merits of the 2015 releases and after much debate and discussion a definitive top ten has been produced.  To be included in the survey, a figure had to have been released in 2015 and we at Everything Dinosaur were informed of the results and kindly sent a short video by The Forum administrators which showcases those models that made the list.

The Top Ten Prehistoric Animal Models of 2015

Video Credit: The Dinosaur Toy Forum

The Poll Winners Ten to the Runner Up Position

A poll for the best prehistoric animal models of 2015.

Voted the best models of 2015 by Dino Toy Forum members.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Key

10. The Schleich World of History Kentrosaurus

9. The Rebor 1:35 scale Acrocanthosaurus replica (Hercules)

8. The Wild Safari Dinos Nasutoceratops model (Safari Ltd)

7.  The CollectA Deluxe 1:40 scale Spinosaurus

6. The Wild Safari Dinos Yutyrannus model (Safari Ltd)

5. The CollectA 1:40 scale feathered T. rex replica

4.  The Papo baby Apatosaurus

3.  The Battat Terra T. rex replica

2.  The CollectA Supreme Guidraco 1.5 scale model

And the Winner is – The Wild Safari Dinos Sauropelta Dinosaur Model

Sauropelta wins the favourite prehistoric animal model of 2015 award.

Voted the favourite prehistoric animal model of 2015.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

All the top ten models, including the Battat Terra Tyrannosaurus rex dinosaur figure are available from Everything Dinosaur, we stock one of the widest ranges of prehistoric animal models in the world.

To see the huge range of prehistoric animal models available at Everything Dinosaur: Visit The Models Section of Everything Dinosaur

The Sauropelta replica, part of the Wild Safari Dinos model range manufactured by Safari Ltd is a deserved winner, in fact this is the second award that this particular replica has won.  In January 2016, Everything Dinosaur reported on the results of similar poll from the readers of the “Prehistoric Times” magazine.  In that survey, the Wild Safari Dinos Sauropelta came out joint top with the 2015 re-modelled Spinosaurus replicas by CollectA, to read a short article about the magazine’s survey: Congratulations to Safari Ltd and CollectA

Commenting on the results from The Dinosaur Toy Forum poll, a spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur stated:

“The Forum members certainly know their prehistoric animal replicas and the top ten from this survey shows the broad range of excellent quality prehistoric animal models that are currently available.  The Guidraco Supreme Pterosaur model is a worthy runner up but there is no disputing the winner, our congratulations to Safari Ltd for their Sauropelta figure.”

If these ten figures as voted for by The Dinosaur Toy Forum members are anything to go by then the prehistoric animal model making industry is in a very healthy state.  We look forward to hearing which of the many dinosaur figures introduced this year will be voted number one by the prestigious Dinosaur Toy Forum.

The Dinosaur Toy Forum can be found here: The Dinosaur Toy Forum

Our thanks to The Dinosaur Toy Forum administration team for sharing this information with Everything Dinosaur.

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