All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
//September
4 09, 2016

Everything Dinosaur to the Rescue

By | September 4th, 2016|General Teaching|Comments Off on Everything Dinosaur to the Rescue

Providing Dinosaur Themed Resources for Schools

After having supplied some prehistoric animal models and fact sheets to a teacher who was developing a scheme of work with a number of classes at her school, we received this kind email thanking us for our contribution.

The teacher wrote:

“Thank you so much for the information.  It was exactly what I was looking for.  We are working on an outreach project for a local school (grades 4-6).  The prehistoric animal models are part of a school assignment on adaptation which includes extinction of species.  I hope to have the students get excited about science in general and plan to use the materials in lots of activities.  The information sheets you provided will help them learn about the prehistoric animals that they make models of.  It should be a fun day!”

Everything Dinosaur Supplies a Range of Prehistoric Animal Models and Other Resources for use in Schools

Prehistoric Mammal models and fact sheets from Everything Dinosaur.

The fact sheets supplied by Everything Dinosaur prove very helpful for teachers.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The picture above shows a set of Ice Age mammals and accompanying data sheets supplied to schools by Everything Dinosaur.  Each fact sheet is research and written by Everything Dinosaur team members and regularly updated in the light of new fossil discoveries and scientific evidence.  The models featured in the photograph (above), are in the company’s set of five prehistoric animal models that represent animals of the Pleistocene Epoch.

To visit Everything Dinosaur’s website: Everything Dinosaur

We shall leave the last word to the teacher.  As we had supplied the fact sheets late on Friday (in response to her email which arrived about thirty minutes earlier), the teacher was most impressed with our speedy response and rapid customer service.  The teacher concluded her email by saying:

“Thank you ever so much and have a great weekend!”

Here’s one teacher who has got her lesson planning sorted in double quick time.

3 09, 2016

A Set of Model Dinosaur Skulls for School

By | September 3rd, 2016|General Teaching|Comments Off on A Set of Model Dinosaur Skulls for School

Model Dinosaur Skulls for Use in Classrooms

The enthusiastic teaching team at Everything Dinosaur have been busy advising teachers and teaching assistants as they prepare for the start of the academic year.  Many schools are undertaking a term topic on dinosaurs this autumn and Everything Dinosaur has a wide range of dinosaur themed teaching resources available, all designed to meet the learning needs of children as well as the objectives of the teaching team.

Whether it’s the creative curriculum and “footprints in the past”, the “Jurassic forest” or “the land before time” dinosaurs as a term topic lends itself to all sorts of creative and imaginative teaching ideas that can support literacy, numeracy as well as introducing the concept of working scientifically.

A Set of Model Dinosaur Fossil Skulls

A dinosaur model skull set.

A set of eleven model dinosaur fossil skulls.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To view the skull model set and other prehistoric animal themed models from Everything Dinosaur: Dinosaur Models for Use in School including Fossil Dinosaur Skull Models

Herbivore, Omnivore or Carnivore?

The set of eleven dinosaur fossil skull models can be used for sorting games and/or identifying (from the skull, jaws and teeth), the diet of the dinosaur.  Ask the class to see if they can name the particular dinosaur that the skull model represents, the set features a mix of well-known and lesser known dinosaurs so this is a great way to differentiate,  Fortunately, for customers of Everything Dinosaur, we supply a handy key to help the teaching team work out which dinosaur skull is which.

Everything Dinosaur Supplies a Handy Identification Guide with Each Set of Model Fossil Skulls

A set of dinosaur skull models.

A handy dinosaur fossil skull identification chart.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

A Lesson Plan Idea

A teacher could split the class up into eleven groups.  Each group of children could be given their own dinosaur skull to research, can they produce a science poster all about their dinosaur?  Can the children create a fact sheet all about their particular dinosaur?  Once the children have studied their dinosaur skull model and prepared some facts and information about it, you could challenge each group to make a short presentation to the rest of the class about the dinosaur.  Typical things for them to find out include:

  • When did it live?
  • What is the dinosaurs name?
  • Where did it live?
  • What did it eat?
  • How big was it?
  • What does its name mean?

At Everything Dinosaur we are mindful of the need to stretch teaching resources, the models can be used over and over again and they can play a role in helping older children learn about adaptation, evolution and natural selection too.

Available from Everything Dinosaur in a Handy Bulk Bag

A pack of dinosaur skull models (48 models).

A pack of 48 dinosaur skull models.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

3 09, 2016

The Importance of Allkaruen

By | September 3rd, 2016|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

The Significance of the Pterosaur Allkaruen

A few days ago, Everything Dinosaur featured an article on this blog about a newly described Early Jurassic Pterosaur named Allkaruen koi.  We were subsequently emailed by one young dinosaur fan asking us to explain the significance of this fossil discovery.

Time to Get Excited About Pterosaurs – Learning Lots about Flying Reptiles

Ikrandraco Pterosaur fossil

White bar shows scale.

Picture Credit: Scientific Reports/Xiaolin Wang et al

The photograph above shows the fossilised remains of Ikrandraco avatar, a new species of Pterosaur described in 2014.

To read our recent article on the discovery of a new Pterosaur (A. koi) from Patagonia (Argentina): New Long-Tailed Pterosaur from Patagonia

Pterosaur Fossils are Exceedingly Rare

Fossils of flying reptiles are exceedingly rare, of the 130 or so genera described to date, most are known from only a few fragmentary fossils, mere scraps of bone and teeth.  The light, delicate, pneumatic bones of Pterosaurs rarely survive the ravages of time and the fossilisation process.  Most corpses, don’t even get buried, the chances are the carcase would have been scavenged long before it settled on a lake bed or the bottom of a shallow sea.  Therefore, the naming of a new flying reptile species is, in itself, a significant event.  For Allkaruen koi, even more so, as the rocks in southern Argentina where the fossilised bones were found indicate that this flying reptile lived around 180 million years ago.

A Beautiful Braincase

The new Pterosaur genus has been erected after careful study of the skeletal elements including an almost perfect, three-dimensionally preserved braincase.  Most Pterosaur fossils are crushed, distorted or compacted but not in this case, one of just a handful of very well-preserved flying reptile braincases known in the fossil record.  The braincase of Allkaruen shows a unique combination of characteristics of both the Rhamphorhynchoids (non-monofenestratan breviquartossans) and the Pterodactyloidea – let’s explain what this means.

The Pterosauria – the Order of reptiles that includes all these flying reptiles can be split into to distinct and very different groups.

  1. Formerly referred to as the Rhamphorhynchoids (as the very well known Rhamphorhynchidae family is included in this group), but now known to include a number of other Pterosaur families that evolved in the Triassic and the Jurassic, characterised by long-tails and a lengthy fifth digit.
  2. The Pterodactyloidea essentially the vast majority of known Pterosaurs, a Jurassic/Cretaceous radiation of flying reptiles with thin bone walls, relatively long metacarpals and much shorter tails.

So, in short, the researchers have a braincase from an Early Jurassic Pterosaur that shows features of both groups, the basal group and the later, short-tailed, long toed, thin bone walled Pterodactyloidea.  By studying the braincase of Allkaruen the palaeontologists can learn more about how the Pterodactyloidea evolved.  They can see how the brains of flying reptiles changed over time.

A Phylogenetic Assessment of Allkaruen Compared to Rhamphorhynchus and the Later Pterosaur Anhanguera

The phylogenetic position of Allkaruen.

Where within the Pterosauria Order does Allkaruen fit in?

Picture Credit: PeerJ

The researchers compared the changing shape and structure of Pterosaur brains, comparing Allkaruen with the brain anatomy of Rhamphorhynchus (representing the basal group), with the brain anatomy of a later Cretaceous Pterosaur Anhanguera, a representative of the short-tailed Pterodactyloidea.  Allkaruen could be described as a sort of “halfway house” between these two groups, a snapshot in Pterosaur evolution permitting scientists to gain “insights into the origin of the Pterodactyloid neurocranium and improve our understanding of the tempo and mode of Pterosaur evolution.”

The scientists mapped the various elements of the brain by comparing the braincases of these three Pterosaurs, from this information they could plot the evolution of the inner ear, essentially the balance organ, vital if you are going to spend a long time in the air.  The brain volume of Allkaruen is much bigger than that of Rhamphorhynchus and from this it can be inferred that Allkaruen was a more advanced animal capable of better co-ordinated flight and faster reactions than the Rhamphorhynchidae.  The cerebellum (show in yellow in the three brain diagrams included in the picture above), is much larger in Allkaruen than it is in Rhamphorhynchus.  The cerebellum in vertebrates is found towards the back of the brain it coordinates and regulates muscular activity.  A bigger cerebellum is another indicator that Allkaruen was a better flyer than the more basal Pterosaurs.  This and other evidence is helping palaeontologists to understand more about how the Pterosaurs evolved.

That’s why this fossil discovery is so important.

2 09, 2016

Dinosaur Fossil Skulls as Teaching Aids

By | September 2nd, 2016|Dinosaur Fans, Educational Activities, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page, Teaching|0 Comments

A Set of Eleven Dinosaur Skulls

At this time of year, more so than any other time of year, our offices are inundated with requests from teachers and teaching assistants regarding information on suitable dinosaur themed teaching resources for school.  With many of the Everything Dinosaur team members having a background in education, we do appreciate how busy educationalists are at the moment as they prepare for the start of the new academic year.

We have been helping a number of teaching teams as they prepare to introduce dinosaurs as a term topic theme.  Working under the “land before time” or the creative curriculum’s “footprints in the past”, Everything Dinosaur is able to advise and assist with the preparation of schemes of work.  Take for example, the Year 2 teacher who contacted our office this week, with a request to help provide suitable resources for her class of eager seven year-olds.

We recommended a set of model dinosaur skulls (Safari Ltd dinosaur skulls) and we helped the teacher further by providing additional information on each of the dinosaurs featured in this eleven piece model set.

A Set of Dinosaur Fossil Skulls Ideal for School

Dinosaur fossil skull models, ideal for school.

A set of eleven dinosaur fossil skulls.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

These well made and quite accurate plastic replicas represent herbivores, carnivores and even an omnivore.  Can the class work out what the dinosaurs ate by examining the skulls?  Can they identify a potential omnivore?  Naturally, this is a great way to help reinforce understanding regarding the terms herbivore, carnivore and omnivore.  Can the children identify living carnivores, omnivores and herbivores?  Where do human beings fit into this?

To view the dinosaur skulls and to see the range of other prehistoric animal models and replicas Everything Dinosaur offers: Safari Ltd Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animals

Identifying Dinosaurs by their Skull Shape

The dinosaur skull set provides lots of scope for independent research on dinosaurs and for sorting games.  For example, we recommend that the fossil skulls be buried in a small sand tray and then the children can have a go at excavating fossils using old art brushes and other digging tools.   What sort of tools would a palaeontologist use?  One teacher split his class into eleven groups and gave each group a different skull. Each group was then challenged to produce a science poster with lots of facts about their dinosaur.

Dinosaur Skull Models

Everything Dinosaur helping to identify dinosaur skulls.

Identifying dinosaur skulls.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Commenting on the use of the skulls in education a spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur stated:

“These robust models are great for creative teaching projects.  Using inexpensive props such as these, teaching teams can conduct all sorts of lesson activities that appeal to all types of learners.  The fossil models are very kinaesthetic and children love to handle them and they are very well made and accurately represent real dinosaur fossil skulls.  These models not only help children learn about individual dinosaurs but they can gain an appreciation of the diversity of the Dinosauria and how different types of prehistoric animal adapted to particular ecological niches.”

1 09, 2016

New Long-tailed Pterosaur from Patagonia

By | September 1st, 2016|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Allkaruen koi – Braincase and All

A team of international scientists including Leicester University’s David Unwin and Oliver Rauhut (conservator at the Bavarian Collection for Palaeontology and Geology), have announced the discovery of a new species of long-tailed Pterosaur from Patagonia (Argentina).  Writing in the academic journal “PeerJ”, the researchers were able to infer new information about how Pterosaurs adapted to an aerial lifestyle thanks to the three-dimensional preservation of the cranial material.  From this skull material, the team were able to gain fresh insights into the braincase and the structure of the inner ear.  The new species of Pterosaur will help palaeontologists to better understand differences between the primitive, primarily long-tailed “rhamphorhynchoids”, also known as non-pterodactyloids and the more derived and later, short-tailed pterodactyloids.

An Illustration of the New Pterosaur (Allkaruen koi)

Allkaruen Pterosaru illustration.

An illustration of the newly described Jurassic Pterosaur from Argentina called Allkaruen.

Picture Credit: Gabriel Lio

The Evolution and Radiation of the Pterosauria

The fossilised remains of this new Pterosaur come from the Cañadón Asfalto Formation, exposed in the northern/central Chubut Province of southern Argentina.  The fossil material came from a single bedding plane formed from freshwater limestone deposits, indicating that there was a large, inland body of water present.  The fossils were scattered although elements such as the mandible preserved a degree of articulation.  The rocks of the Cañadón Asfalto Formation had been thought to be about 162 million  years of age (Callovian to Oxfordian faunal stages – latest Middle to earliest Late Jurassic), however recent radiometric and biostratigraphical analysis suggests that these rocks might be much older.  Research published in 2013 (Cúneo et al), indicates an age range for this formation of between 183 and 165 million years (Toarcian to Bathonian faunal stages).

The genus name comes from the local Tehuelche dialect word “all” for “brain” and “karuen” which means “ancient”, in recognition of the superb three-dimensional preservation state of the fossil  skull.  The species name means “lake” in the Tehuelche language, reflecting the fact that the fossils were found in lacustrine deposits,

Fossils and Line Drawings of the Allkaruen koi Material

Fossils of the Jurassic Pterosaur Allkaruen

Fossils of the braincase, line drawings of the braincase along with drawings of the mandible and vertebrae.

Picture Credit: PeerJ

Two Main Types of Pterosaur

Pterosaurs have remarkable skeletal adaptations for life in the air and they were the first vertebrates to achieve powered flight.  Two major body plans have traditionally been recognised, rhamphorhynchoids (non-pterodactyloids) and the pterodactyloids.  These two types of flying reptile differ considerably in their general anatomy and also they exhibit very different head postures and neuroanatomy (nervous systems and the study of the brain).  Computerised tomography was employed to scan the uncrushed braincase that enabled the scientists to infer more information regarding the shape of the brain and the inner ear.  This study has provided new information on the origins of the highly derived neuroanatomy of pterodactyloids, as, until this new fossil discovery, only a few three-dimensionally preserved braincases of flying reptiles were known and these demonstrated a large morphological gap between the specimens.  The braincase of Allkaruen has helped fill in a portion of that gap to give scientists a better understanding of how the flying abilities of these reptiles evolved.

Dr. Diego Pol (CONICET, Museo Paleontológico Egidio Feruglio, Trelew, Chubut, Argentina) and corresponding author for the published paper stated: 

“Allkaruen shows an intermediate state in the brain evolution of pterosaurs and their adaptations to the aerial environment.  As a result, this research makes an important
contribution to the understanding of the evolution of all of Pterosaurs.”

A phylogenetic analysis was undertaken and Allkaruen is nested between monofenestratan breviquartossans (Rhamphorhynchidae) and derived pterodactyloids.  Given the age of the fossil and its phylogenetic affinities to Rhamphorhynchus and the Pterosaur known as Darwinopterus it has been suggested that this flying reptile had a long tail with a diamond shape rudder on the end of it.  Analysis of the cranium indicates that Allkaruen had two parallel crests on the top of its skull and it appeared to have teeth restricted to the middle and anterior (front) part of its jaws.  Although the exact diet of this Pterosaur is not known, given the context of the fossil material and the shape of the teeth, Allkaruen most likely fed on fish.

To read an article on the transitional fossil Darwinopterus: Darwinopterus – A Transitional Pterosaur

Dr. Oliver Rauhut has had a busy couple of weeks, he was also one of the principal authors of the scientific paper on the Early Jurassic meglosaurid Wiehenvenator.  To read about the “Monster of Minden”:Wiehenvenator albati – The Monster of Minden

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