All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
//February
28 02, 2018

Year 4 Recreate the Age of Dinosaurs

By | February 28th, 2018|Educational Activities, Main Page, Teaching|0 Comments

Dinosaur Landscapes Created by Year 4 Children

The children in Year 4 at Langley Hall Primary Academy have begun their topic for the second half of the Spring Term.  The four classes are studying dinosaurs, fossils and life in the past.  The enthusiastic young scientists have been creating mini dinosaur worlds depicting prehistoric scenes and what a fantastic display of dinosaur dioramas they make!

Children in Year 4 at Langley Hall Primary Academy Have Made Mini Dinosaur Dioramas

Dinosaur landscapes on display.

A collection of dinosaur dioramas created by children in Year 4 at Langley Hall Primary Academy.

Picture Credit: Langley Hall Primary Academy/Everything Dinosaur

The four classes have been named after famous artists.  There is Matisse, Degas, Klee and O’Keeffe classes, clearly the children have been inspired by these artists as they made their very own prehistoric scenes.

A Range of Materials Have Been Used to Create the Prehistoric Landscapes

"Jurassic World" created by Year 4 children.

Dinosaur dioramas created by children in Year 4 at Langley Hall Primary Academy.

Picture Credit: Langley Hall Primary Academy/Everything Dinosaur

Using Different Materials to Create Prehistoric Scenes

Lots of different materials have been used to create prehistoric scenes.  For example, some of the children made plants out of pieces of coloured tissue paper, whilst one pupil collected moss to provide flora for their dinosaur diorama.  The prehistoric animal models have plenty of different textures to explore, some children used small pieces of gravel in their scenes, whilst one innovative young scientists used couscous to make a sand effect.  Can you spot the chicken egg in the photograph below?  During the workshops that Everything Dinosaur conducted with the children over the course of a day, the pupils discovered that chickens are dinosaurs (avian dinosaurs).

Can You Find the Dinosaur Egg?

Year 4 children create prehistoric scenes.

Dinosaur worlds created by children in Year 4 at Langley Hall Primary Academy.

Picture Credit: Langley Hall Primary Academy/Everything Dinosaur

Georgia O’Keeffe and the Ghost Ranch Location

One of the Year 4 classes is named after Georgia O’Keeffe.  Georgia O’Keeffe was an American painter, best-known for her modernist approach to her subject matter.  Many of her paintings feature the atmospheric landscapes of the Ghost Ranch region of New Mexico.  The sandstones, siltstones and mudstones of this region date from the Triassic geological period and Ghost Ranch is famous for its dinosaur fossils.  Fossils of freshwater Coelacanths are also associated with the region (Chinle Formation).  Our dinosaur expert challenged the children to research the story of the Coelacanth and its rediscovery as part of several extension activities that were suggested during the workshops.

Ancient Rocks Exposed at the Ghost Ranch Location

Ghost Ranch Formation

Famous Dinosaur Fossil Location

Picture Credit: S. Nesbitt

A Variety of Ecosystems and Habitats

Dinosaurs as a term topic permits lots of cross-curricular activities.  Everything Dinosaur provided some numeracy-based as well as literacy-based extension activities and the dioramas can be used to help explore and reinforce learning about food chains and different habitats.  For instance, in the prehistoric scene (below), the Year 4 pupil has used a range of materials to depict different environments.  They have even included some aquatic animals in their prehistoric scene.   Could add a drawing of a Coelacanth to their diorama?

A Prehistoric Scene Using Various Materials to Create Different Habitats

A dinosaur world in a shoe box.

Prehistoric landscapes created by children in Year 4 at Langley Hall Primary Academy.

Picture Credit: Picture Credit: Langley Hall Primary Academy/Everything Dinosaur

27 02, 2018

Prehistoric Animal Model Retirements from Schleich

By | February 27th, 2018|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products|1 Comment

Dinosaur Models Retired from the Schleich Range

Recently, Everything Dinosaur posted up pictures on the company’s Facebook page of the new prehistoric animal models to be introduced by Schleich in July 2018.  As well as new model introductions for this year (a total of eight figures), Schleich are also retiring several replicas.

Comings and Goings from the Schleich Dinosaur Model Range

Schleich logo - Dinosaurs

Schleich dinosaurs logo.  There are numerous changes to the German company’s prehistoric animal model range.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur/Schleich

Goodbye to the Mini Dinosaurs

All the Schleich mini dinosaur models have been retired.  The Schleich mini dinosaur model range was introduced in early 2015.  It consisted of eight very collectable prehistoric animal figures, seven dinosaurs and one pterosaur (Quetzalcoatlus).  Ranging in size from 5.5 centimetres to a fraction under 7 centimetres in length, these colourful models were ideal for representing juvenile animals in dioramas.  Last year, four new additions to this series, were introduced.  However, the decision has been taken to end production of all the mini prehistoric animal figures.

In Early 2017, New Models were Added to the Schleich Mini Dinosaurs Model Range

New mini dinosaurs (Schleich) 2017.

New mini dinosaurs from Schleich first introduced in early 2017.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Everything Dinosaur has been able to secure some of the very last stock of these hand-painted figures, including the highly sought after Schleich mini dinosaurs Velociraptor (ocean blue).  It is our policy not to exploit the rarity of models, these carefully crafted figures are being offered for sale at the same price as when this range was first introduced three years ago.

The Schleich Mini Dinosaurs Velociraptor (Ocean Blue)

Schleich mini Velociraptor (ocean blue).

The Schleich mini Velociraptor (ocean blue).

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur/Schleich

Large Schleich Dinosaurs Out of Production Too

Several of the larger dinosaur models in the Schleich range have been retired too.  One of the casualties is the Schleich Therizinosaurus model (orange and blue colouration).  This model has been replaced by black/red painted replica, a prelude to the introduction of a juvenile Therizinosaurus figure later this year.

The Schleich Therizinosaurus Figure (Orange/Blue Colouration) is Out of Production

The original Schleich Therizinosaurus replica.

Now out of production the original Schleich Therizinosaurus replica.

Picture Credit: Schleich

A Velociraptor figure introduced in 2014 has been discontinued.  The Schleich Styracosaurus and the red Carnotaurus models were withdrawn last autumn.  Also retired is the Schleich Green Velociraptor replica.  However, once again, Everything Dinosaur has been able to secure some remaining stock, giving collectors the opportunity to complete their Schleich model collections.

The Schleich Green Velociraptor Model Has Been Retired

Schleich Velociraptor Model

Green terror!  The Schleich Velociraptor dinosaur model.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur/Schleich

To view the range of Schleich prehistoric animal models available from Everything Dinosaur: Schleich Prehistoric Animals and Dinosaurs

The Demise of the Light Green T. rex Dinosaur Model

Another victim of the cull is the light green Tyrannosaurus rex model.  This figure was introduced in the early summer of 2014 and although no official explanation for its withdrawal has been received by Everything Dinosaur team members, it is likely, that with the introduction of the more recent T. rex models, plus the imminent arrival of a juvenile Tyrannosaurus rex model in the summer, Schleich may have thought that they simply had one T. rex too many.

The Schleich Light Green T. rex Dinosaur Model has been Retired

Schleich T. rex (2014)

T. rex (Schleich 2014), now retired.

Picture Credit: Schleich

The Schleich range of prehistoric animal models has undergone some significant changes in the last few months.  As well as the retirement of several large models, the smaller dinosaur line remains limited and the mini figures have been withdrawn.  In addition, the 2016 model and jigsaw sets (marshland, waterhole, lava field and discovery) have also been taken out of production.  We shall have to see what happens in 2019, whether Schleich continues to reduce the number of dinosaur figures it makes, or whether the company brings out a similar number of new figures to this year (8 figures in total), helping to increase the variety within the range.

26 02, 2018

The Future is Bright for Eofauna Scientific Research

By | February 26th, 2018|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products, Press Releases|0 Comments

Exciting Times for Eofauna Scientific Research

Eofauna Scientific Research has some exciting times ahead.  The company is soon to release details of the next model in its 1:40 scale replica series and when Everything Dinosaur has permission to do so, we will be telling our blog readers all about it and showing pictures.  In the meantime, team members from Everything Dinosaur recently met up with staff from Eofauna Scientific Research as the two organisations work together to help introduce new prehistoric animal figures. Eofauna Scientific Research consists of a team of dedicated researchers, creatives and specialists in prehistoric fauna.  With a broad background in the fields of palaeontology, biology, design and model making the organisation is ideally placed to develop a range of highly realistic, scientifically accurate prehistoric animal figures.

Everything Dinosaur Team Members Met with Eofauna Scientific Research Staff Recently

Eofauna Scientific Research meeting with Everything Dinosaur.

Eofauna Scientific Research team members met up with Everything Dinosaur recently.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Working Closely with Model Makers

At Everything Dinosaur, we work very closely with model makers and designers.  Our aim is to bring to our customers the very best prehistoric animal and dinosaur figures available.  Sue, (Finance Director at Everything Dinosaur), held very positive talks with Asier and Joseba of Eofauna Scientific Research, in a statement following her recent meeting Sue said:

“We have been working with Eofauna for some time.  They are a very dedicated team and share our goal in being able to provide highly detailed, sculpted figurines based on anatomically correct, accurate reconstructions from the fossil record.  The company has some very exciting plans and we are looking forward to continuing our close working relationship.”

Steppe Mammoth (Mammuthus trogontherii) 1:40 Scale Replica

In October 2017, Everything Dinosaur took in stocks of the first model in the range, a replica of a Steppe Mammoth (Mammuthus trogontherii), a beautiful scale model which is based on real fossils of this Pleistocene-aged animal.

The Eofauna Scientific Research Steppe Mammoth Figure

The Eofauna Scientific research 1:40 scale Steppe Mammoth model.

The Eofauna Scientific research Steppe Mammoth model comes complete with a bonus collector’s card.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur/Eofauna Scientific Research

Rave Reviews from Model Collectors

The first PVC figure to be produced in this series has received rave reviews from model collectors.  Since, its introduction into the Everything Dinosaur range, the figure has received 5-star reviews (FEEFO independent data).

The review of Everything Dinosaur customer “Paleo collector” is typical:

“This is a skilfully sculpted figure with close attention paid to anatomy and posing, the molars can even be seen in the open mouth.  The delicate fur pattern and muscle definition underneath make this mammoth a museum quality piece.  The model is solid PVC and comes with a collectors’ card along with an info tag.  This is one of the most accurately sculpted mammoth figures I’ve ever seen and highly recommended for collectors of prehistoric models or elephants/mammoths in general.”

A Close-up View Showing Details in the Mouth of the 1:40 Scale Replica

A close view of the interior of the Eofauna Scientific Research Steppe Mammoth model.

A close-up view of the mouth of the Steppe Mammoth.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To view the Steppe Mammoth model at Everything Dinosaur: Eofauna Scientific Research models available from Everything Dinosaur

A Beautiful Replica the Eofauna Steppe Mammoth (Mammuthus trogontherii)

The size of the Eofauna Steppe Mammoth model.

The beautiful Eofauna Scientific Research Steppe Mammoth model.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Blog readers and visitors to Everything Dinosaur’s social media pages can rest assured, we will be posting up details of the next model in the fantastic Eofauna Scientific Research range shortly.

25 02, 2018

A Trio of Achillobators by Zhao Chuang

By | February 25th, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal Drawings, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Achillobator Flock by Zhao Chuang

The talented palaeoartist Zhao Chuang might be renowned for his stunning colour landscapes depicting various prehistoric animals but the Chinese-based artist has also produced a number of line drawings too.  Today, we showcase one of his lesser known illustrations, a black and white study of the large, Mongolian dromaeosaurid Achillobator (Achillobator giganticus).

Deadly, Dangerous Dinosaurs – A Trio a Achillobators on the Prowl

Achillobator illustrated.

An illustration of a flock of Achillobator dinosaurs by Zhao Chuang.

Picture Credit: Zhao Chuang

Achillobator giganticus

Fossils found in 1983, were formally described in 1999 and the genus name – Achillobator was erected.  The name translates as “giant Achilles hero”, this five to six-metre-long dinosaur getting its name because the foot bones show evidence of particularly robust Achilles tendons.  Known from fragmentary fossil material, which includes part of the upper jaw, this dinosaur would have been a very formidable predator.  Although Zhao Chuang has chosen not to add feathers in his illustration, he has managed to convey an impression of danger and ferocity in his artwork.  Achillobator would have been an apex predator within its environment and a pack of these hungry super-sized “raptors” would have been a blood curdling sight.

24 02, 2018

In Search of a Prehistoric Landscape Under the Sea

By | February 24th, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Geology, Main Page|0 Comments

Exploring the Ancient Landscape Under the Irish Sea

A team of international scientists are setting out to map and explore the extensive submerged landscape that lies under the Irish Sea.  The research team includes members of the Irish Marine Institute and the Institute of Technology Sligo and the University College Cork and they aim to explore the prehistoric landscape and search for evidence of human activity and habitation.  At the end of the last Ice Age, huge areas of habitable land in Europe were flooded as sea levels rose.  Scientists estimate that the water rose by around 120 metres, (as a guide, St Paul’s Cathedral is around 111 metres tall), beneath the waves lies a virtually unknown palaeolandscape of plains, hills, marshlands and river valleys.

A Map Showing the Maximum Extent of the Marine Palaeolandscapes

The extent of the palaeolandscape prior to sea level changes.

Approximate maximum extent of marine palaeolandscapes off the Irish and British coasts (survey areas in red).

Picture Credit: University of Bradford

A Landscape Similar to Doggerland

The researchers are confident that the palaeolandscape between Great Britain and Ireland will be similar to that of Doggerland, an area of the southern North Sea and currently the best-known example of a palaeolandscape in Europe.  Doggerland has been extensively researched by Professor Vince Gaffney from the University of Bradford, Principal Investigator of the “Europe’s Lost Frontiers” Project.

The “Lost Frontiers” Project

Lost Frontiers is an ERC-funded Advanced Grant project based at Bradford University (West Yorkshire).   The purpose is to better understand the transition between nomadic, hunter gathering populations to sedentary farming communities in north-western Europe.  The “Lost Frontiers” team are studying the evidence for inundated palaeolandscapes around the British coast using seismic reflectance data sets to generate topographical maps of these hidden landscapes.  Environmental data from these areas is then being used to reconstruct and simulate the palaeoenvironments of these areas using ancient DNA extracted directly from sediment cores as well as traditional environmental data.

Professor Gaffney commented:

“Research by the project team has also provided accurate maps for the submerged lands that lie between Ireland and Britain and these are suspected to hold crucial information regarding the first settlers of Ireland and adjacent lands along the Atlantic corridor.”

Drilling Sediment Cores to Explore an Ancient Submerged Landscape

Around sixty sediment cores are going to be drilled at twenty carefully selected sites in Liverpool and Cardigan Bays, these cores will then be analysed by the research team in order to build up a picture of how the landscape changed over time.  Analysis of plant spores and pollen will help to establish the type of landscape that once existed under the waves, from this and using Doggerland research as a benchmark, the existence of different types of megafauna can be inferred.

The Coastal Vessel RV Celtic Voyager Will be the Base of Operations

RV Coastal Voyager

The coastal vessel RV Celtic Voyager will be the base of operations for the research team and core drilling staff.

Picture Credit: Bradford University

Commenting on the significance of this research Dr James Bonsall (Institute of Technology Sligo), stated:

“It is very exciting, as we’re using cutting-edge technology to retrieve the first evidence for life within landscapes that were inundated by rising sea levels thousands of years ago.  This is the first time that this range of techniques has been employed on submerged landscapes under the Irish Sea.  Today, we perceive the Irish Sea as a large body of water, a sea that separates us from Britain and mainland Europe, a sea that gives us an identity as a proud island nation.  But 18,000 years ago, Ireland, Britain and Europe were part of a single landmass that gradually flooded over thousands of years, forming the islands that we know today.  We’re going to find out where, when, why and how people lived on a landscape that today is located beneath the waves.”

Reconstructing Ancient Landscapes

The researchers hope to reconstruct and simulate the palaeoenvironments of the Irish Sea, using ancient DNA, analysed in the laboratories at the University of Warwick, and palaeoenvironmental data extracted from the sediment cores.  This information will help the team to build up a picture of the lives of the people who once lived on the land between what is now Ireland and Great Britain.

Mapping the Palaeolandscapes of the Irish Sea

Red triangles indicate survey sites.

Geology of the survey area and core sampling sites (red triangles).

Picture Credit: Bradford University

Dr Martin Bates (University of Wales) added:

“This is a very exciting opportunity as the cores we are collecting are the first drilled in the Cardigan Bay sea bed since perhaps the 1970’s.  They are going to provide us with material that will really help us to understand how Cardigan Bay changed as the sea flooded across the landscape during the time that people were coming back to Wales after the last glaciation.”

Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the help of a press release from the University of Bradford in the compilation of this article.

23 02, 2018

Neanderthals Thought Like Us

By | February 23rd, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal Drawings, Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page|0 Comments

Iberian Neanderthals Created Cave Art

The image of the Neanderthal (Homo neanderthalensis), has changed radically over the last few decades.  Gone are the images of a brutish, “ape-man” as depicted by 20th Century artists such as Burian and Charles Knight.  A lot of evidence has emerged in recent years that supports the idea that Neanderthals, our closest cousins, were as sophisticated as us with a rich and diverse culture.  A new study, published in the journal “Science”, proposes that Iberian Neanderthals, created cave paintings as early as 64,000 years ago and that these paintings were as complex as those associated with our own species.  Neanderthal artists used symbolism, geometric shapes and linear signs just as complicated as those drawn by H. sapiens.

Abstract and Symbolic Cave Art Created by Neanderthals

Evidence of Neanderthal Cave Art (Spain).

La Pasiega, section C, cave wall with paintings.  The ladder shape composed of red horizontal and vertical lines (centre left) dates to older than 64,000 years and was made by Neanderthals.

Picture Credit: P. Saura

What Does it Mean to be Human?

Defining what it means to be human (Homo sapiens), has just become a little more complicated.  It was once thought that our ability to create abstract art, to use symbols and to develop a culture was a defining characteristic that elevated our species above all the other hominins.

Lead author of the new research, Dirk Hoffmann of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (Leipzig, Germany) explained:

“The emergence of symbolic material culture represents a fundamental threshold in the evolution of humankind.  It is one of the main pillars of what makes us human.  Artefacts whose functional value lies not so much in their practical but rather in their symbolic use are proxies for fundamental aspects of human cognition as we know it.”

Neanderthals Had a Culture Too

Early symbolic artefacts, like pigment-coloured shells that possibly served as body ornamentation, are documented for the Middle Stone Age in North and South Africa.  These have been dated to approximately 70,000 years ago (middle Tarantian stage of the Pleistocene Epoch) and are associated with anatomically and behaviourally modern humans.  There is evidence in Europe for cave art, sculpted figures, decorated bone tools and jewellery made of bone, tooth, ivory, shell or stone that dates back to the so-called “Upper Palaeolithic Revolution” around 40,000 years ago.  These artefacts, researchers concluded, must have been created by modern humans who were spreading all over Europe after their arrival from Africa.

A Shell with Traces of Pigmentation – An Object Dating from at Least 115,000 Years Ago

Shell Fragment with Signs of Pigmentation.

A shell with remnants of pigments found in sediments in Cueva de los Aviones (Spain).  It dates to between 115,000 and 120,000 years of age.

Picture Credit: João Zilhão (Catalan Institution for Research and Advanced Studies

Cave Art Previously Only Associated with Homo sapiens

Cave paintings are a particularly impressive statement of culture and the use of symbolic behaviour.  To date, cave art and paintings have only been attributed to modern humans.  A lack of precise dating has hindered attempts to prove that Neanderthals painted on cave walls too.  The perpetrators of cave art cannot usually be identified directly, the age of the paintings is the only determinant, providing indirect evidence of who created the paintings based on their geological age.  However, a new advanced dating technique has permitted more precise dating and this research suggests that Neanderthals were just as artistic as ourselves.

Post-doctoral researcher Hoffmann added:

“Dating cave art accurately and precisely, but without destroying it, has so far been difficult to accomplish.  Thanks to recent technical developments we can now obtain a minimum age for cave art using Uranium-Thorium (U-Th) dating of carbonate crusts overlying the pigments.”

Uranium-Thorium Dating

Uranium-Thorium dating is very precise and it relies on the radioactive decay of Uranium isotopes into Thorium, this methodology can accurately date calcium carbonate deposits and formations associated with cave art and it can determine the age of calcium carbonate which is up to half a million years old – more than enough scope to chronologically test all forms of cave painting.

Dating Cave Art Using Uranium-Thorium Analysis

Calcium Carbonate deposits help to date cave art.

Calcite crust on top of the red ladder shape sign.  The U-Th method dates the formation of the crust which gives a minimum age for the underlying painting.

Picture Credit: João Zilhão (Catalan Institution for Research and Advanced Studies

The international team of researchers, which included scientists from the University of Southampton, analysed more than sixty carbonate samples from three different cave sites in Spain: La Pasiega in north-eastern Spain, Ardales in southern Spain and Maltravieso in the western part of the country.  All three sites contain paintings mostly in red, sometimes in black, that show groups of animals, dots and geometric signs, hand stencils, hand prints and engravings.

Commenting on the team’s findings Alistair Pike (Southampton University), stated:

“Our dating results show that the cave art at these three sites in Spain is much older than previously thought.  With an age in excess of 64,000 years it predates the earliest traces of modern humans in Europe by more than 20,000 years.  The cave art must thus have been created by Neanderthals.”

Neanderthal hand stencil.

Stencil of a Neanderthal hand on a cave wall in Maltravieso (colour enhanced), almost completely covered with calcite.  It is older than 66,000 years

Picture Credit: H. Collado (Quaternary-Prehistory Research Group, Spain)

Evidence of a Complex Thought Process

The early cave paintings created in red pigments comprise of dots, lines, discs and hand stencils.  The hand prints were made by the artist blowing red paint over the hand, using it as a form of stencil.  To create such intricate artwork, the perpetrator would have had to plan their work, provide a suitable light source and mix pigments.  Choice of location was essential too.

Cave art specialist and co-author Paul Pettitt (University of Durham) asserted:

“Neanderthals created meaningful symbols in meaningful places.”

The research team concludes that Neanderthals possessed a much more rich and complex symbolic behaviour than previously assumed.  This new research will help to change the long-held prejudices against the intelligence and intellectual abilities of these hominins that are so closely related to ourselves.

Fellow author João Zilhão (Catalan Institution for Research and Advanced Studies), explained the implications of this and other research that reveals a more sophisticated Neanderthal.  It can be concluded that modern humans and Neanderthals shared symbolic thinking and must have been “cognitively indistinguishable”.

Research Professor Zilhão commented:

“On our search for the origins of language and advanced human cognition we must therefore look much farther back in time, more than half a million years ago, to the common ancestor of Neanderthals and modern humans.”

As the weekend approaches, why don’t you take time out to create some artwork, harness your inner Neanderthal…

The scientific paper: “U-Th Dating of Carbonate Crusts Reveals Neandertal Origin of Iberian Cave Art” by D. L. Hoffmann, C. D. Standish, M. García-Diez, P. B. Pettitt, J. A. Milton, J. Zilhão, J. J. Alcolea-González, P. Cantalejo-Duarte, H. Collado, R. de Balbín, M. Lorblanchet, J. Ramos-Muñoz G.-Ch. Weniger, A. W. G. Pike published in the journal “Science”.

Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the help of a press release from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in the compilation of this article.

22 02, 2018

Ground-Dwelling Birds Provide Clues to Theropod Dinosaur Locomotion

By | February 22nd, 2018|Animal News Stories, Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

Observe How Ground-Dwelling Birds Move to Learn About Theropod Locomotion

Just how fast could T. rex run?  Over the years, there have been a number of papers published that looked at the locomotion of big Theropod dinosaurs.  Computer models, three-dimensional analysis of trackways using state-of-the-art LIDAR (light detection and ranging), biomechanics, kinetic studies, so many disciples and so many areas of research.  One way of obtaining a better understanding of the movements of large, bipedal dinosaurs is to take a look at the dinosaurs that are still with us today, the birds.  By studying extant Aves, scientists can gain an insight into the locomotion of non-avian members of the Theropoda.

How Did Big Theropod Dinosaurs Move About?

Birds provide clues to Theropod locomotion.

T. rex locomotion.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Writing in the academic on-line journal PLOS One, a team of international scientists, which included Professor John Hutchinson from the Royal Veterinary College, Hertfordshire, set about gaining a greater appreciation of just how birds move by examining in detail the locomotion of twelve types of ground-dwelling bird, some of them flightless, such as the emu and ostrich, whilst others are accomplished flyers such as the Japanese quail and the Australian white ibis.  Aerial ability or the lack of it was not important, the team were interested in examining how birds of various sizes and body weights moved about, effectively recording their body movements using high speed cameras as these birds walked or ran across a track.  The species were selected based on the fact that these birds spend a lot of time on the ground.   By virtue of spending most of their lives (in the case of the emu and ostrich, all of their lives), on the ground, these feathered friends have well-developed hind limb locomotor systems.

Scaling Up to a Seven Tonne Theropod

There was a considerable variation in body size amongst the participants.  The smallest species represented being the Chinese painted quail, that weighed in at around 45 grammes, the largest being the ostrich which at 80 kilos represents a body mass some 1,780 times heavier.

The scientific paper deals with some of the problems of trying to use birds to test the locomotive abilities of big meat-eating dinosaurs.  Any studies using an 80-kg ostrich would require nearly a 100 fold extrapolation to equate to the body weight of a fully-grown Tyrannosaurus rex for example.  The researchers comment in the paper that the absolute range of body masses encompassed by modern birds is small compared to that encompassed by extinct, non-avian Theropod dinosaurs.  They postulate that whilst it may be reasonable to extrapolate to a 200-kilogramme flightless moa from New Zealand, is it reasonable to extrapolate to an eight tonne Tyrannosaur?

The Skeleton of an Ostrich (left) Compared to a Dinosaur Skeleton (right)

Ostrich skeleton compared to Guanlong dinosaur skeleton.

The skeleton of an extant ostrich compared to a Theropod dinosaur (Guanlong).

That point notwithstanding, birds are closely related to the likes of Tyrannosaurus rex and as such they make a better test subject than that other animal that is an obligate biped – us.  Data on how humans walk and run was also collated and studied, but Homo sapiens does move differently when compared to ground-dwelling birds, there are some very significant differences.   This research looked at the kinetics of bipedal movement, that is, those forces that cause motion (gravity, torque, friction and so forth).  It also examined the kinematics of motion, the study of describing movement, usually by measuring the precise motion of parts of the body such as the joints.  Kinematics involves looking at acceleration, velocity and braking.

When it comes to examining the differences in terrestrial motion between Aves and ourselves, perhaps the most significant difference is that in birds, all kinematic and kinetic parameters analysed changed continuously as velocity increased, whilst in humans all but one of those same parameters changed abruptly at the walk-run transition.  Think of it as birds being able to move through the gears a little more smoothly than their two-legged human counterparts.

The Locomotion of the Australian White Ibis was Examined

The Australian white ibis helps explain dinosaur locomotion

The Australian white ibis (Threskiornis molucca).

Ground Reaction Force

Particular attention was devoted to the ground reaction force (GRF), the force that the feet exert upon the ground.  The research team confirmed previous assessments of bird locomotion.  Birds have a highly continuous locomotor repertoire compared to humans.  Our discrete “walking” and “running” gaits are not easily distinguishable based on kinematic patterns alone.  If birds have a more continuous locomotion profile based on body mass and the speed of movement, then this means that scientists can develop equations that allows them to predict the potential locomotor capabilities of extinct creatures – Tyrannosaurus rex for example.

Lead author of the scientific paper, Peter Bishop (Queensland Museum) explained:

“Since birds, also known as “avian dinosaurs”, are actually just dinosaurs that didn’t become extinct, they were ideal models to study how their extinct cousins would have moved.  So, you’d be foolish to start anywhere else.”

The predictive model that the team has produced is able to explain 79–93% of the observed variation in kinematics and 69–83% of the observed variation in Ground Reaction Forces.  When used in extrapolation tests to examine the gaits of extinct animals, the results produced were within expected levels.  There are caveats however, this study also found that the location of the whole-body centre of mass may exert an important influence on the nature of the Ground Reaction Forces, some caution is needed before applying this model to a thirteen metre monster like T. rex, after all most extinct Theropod dinosaurs had substantial tails, whilst birds have a reduced tail in the form of a pygostyle and the presence/absence of a tail will have a bearing on locomotion.  The research team conclude that further investigation of the movement of dinosaurs is required.

A couple of years ago, a group of scientists mounted prosthetic tails on chickens and assessed how the presence of a tail altered their locomotion.

To read an article on this study: Walking Dinosaurs Chicken Run

Differences in Muscles and the Skeleton

Extant birds also have a very different skeleton compared to Theropod dinosaurs such as Allosaurus, Giganotosaurus, Megalosaurus and Tyrannosaurus rex.  The anatomy of birds varies considerable from that of a dinosaur, although there are striking similarities, the presence of a wish bone and a digitigrade stance for example.  Extinct non-avian Theropods have different limb proportions and their leg muscles and their position (as influenced, in part by that long tail), are different.  Theropod dinosaurs also had a different centre of gravity compared to birds.

For an article that looks at the evolution of the stance of birds from their dinosaur ancestors: Standing Dinosaur, Crouching Bird

The Research Will Help with the Locomotion of Extinct Flightless Birds (Sylviornis)

Sylviornis from New Caledonia.

Scale bar = 50 cm, a skeletal reconstruction of the giant, flightless bird from New Caledonia Sylviornis.

The Queensland Museum scientist Peter Bishop added that understanding the locomotion of giant, extinct Theropods such as the Late Cretaceous tyrannosaurids not only excited the curiosity of the public but was crucial to understanding a wide range of scientific questions.

He stated:

“Locomotion is important for understanding other parts of dinosaur ecology, how you find food, how you find mates, how you avoid becoming food yourself?  It could also help contribute to models of dinosaur migration and even help settle debates about whether they were warm-blooded.  But for me, the most interesting part of dinosaur locomotion is that it’s the most critical part of how dinosaurs evolved into birds.  There were a lot of changes in locomotion … including the development of powered flight.”

Next Steps

The research team hope to test their equations on more species of birds and also to develop computer programmes that can model how large bipedal dinosaurs would have moved.

An article published in 2013 that looks at the evolution of the gait of birds: Birds Have the Dinosauria to Thank for Their Crouching Gait

21 02, 2018

Plants May Have Originated 100 Million Years Earlier

By | February 21st, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Pushing Back the Origins of Plants by 100 Million Years

An analysis of the genes of living plants has revealed that the very first plants may have evolved 100 million years earlier than the fossil record suggests.  Writing in the academic journal “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA)”, researchers conclude that the first plants to colonise the Earth evolved around 500 million years ago, whereas, the current known fossil record provides evidence of plant spores from Ordovician-aged rocks and the first Rhyniophytes, Bryophytes and Lycophytes originated in the Silurian approximately 420 to 400 million years ago.

The Research Team Examined the Origins of Early Land Plants

Researching into the origins of early land plants.

Early land plants would have resembled the flora found in this Icelandic lava field.

Picture Credit: Paul Kenrick (Natural History Museum, London)

Lead author of the study, Dr. Philip Donoghue (Department of Earth Sciences, Bristol University) commented:

“Land plants emerged on land half a billion years ago, tens of millions of years older than the fossil record alone suggests.”

The current theory is that true plants, capable of surviving in a terrestrial environment evolved from “pond scum”.  Plants play a hugely important role in shaping the climate of our planet through photosynthesis and respiration.  The greening of the Earth permitted terrestrial environments to be opened up for exploitation by the first land animals.  Plants can help to establish and maintain soils and the roots of plants play a vital role in the physical and chemical weathering of rocks.  The breaking down of rocks is a key process in the carbon cycle that regulates the Earth’s atmosphere and climate.

Tracking Evolution Using a Molecular Clock

The scientists, which included Dr Mark Puttick from the Natural History Museum (London), used a molecular clock which analysed the combined evidence of genetic differences between related living species and the fossils of ancient ancestors.   The concept of a molecular clock works on the assumption that evolutionary changes occur at regular time intervals.  If the rate of genetic change (mutation), in the DNA of an organism can be compared to the genome of a closely related species then their relationship can be tracked back through time, identifying the characteristics of a common ancestor.  Tracking back using this methodology, the team concluded that the first plants evolved much earlier than previously thought.

Co-lead author of the research, Dr Jennifer Morris (Bristol University), explained:

“The global spread of plants and their adaptations to life on land, led to an increase in continental weathering rates that ultimately resulted in a dramatic decrease the levels of the “greenhouse gas” carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and global cooling.  Previous attempts to model these changes in the atmosphere have accepted the plant fossil record at face value, our research shows that these fossil ages underestimate the origins of land plants and so these models need to be revised.”

An Incomplete and Sparse Fossil Record

The fossil record of early plants is particularly poor.  It is far too incomplete to act as a reliable guide to the evolution and origin of land plants.  The molecular clock allowed the team to compare differences in the genetic make-up of extant plant species, these relative genetic differences were then converted into geological ages using the sparse fossil record as a loose framework.  This work suggests that the ancestor of land plants was living in the middle of the Cambrian and it is similar in age as the first known terrestrial animals.

A Cross Section of the Devonian Land Plant Rhynia gwynne-vaughanii from Scotland

An image of the early vascular plant Rhynia gwynne-vaughanii (Devonian).

A cross section of the early vascular plant – Rhynia gwynne-vaughanii.

Picture Credit: Natural History Museum, London

A Taxonomic Conundrum

The research into the origins of land plants has been complicated as the taxonomic relationships between the earliest land plants are not clear and distinct.  Using similarities in the shape and structure of land plants, scientists have mapped a number of conflicting outcomes for a cladistic analysis of early plant relationships between the most primitive groups such as the Bryophytes (liverworts and mosses) and the vascular plants (Tracheophytes) and a primitive sub-group of vascular plants, the Lycophytes.  Using the molecular clock model to map phylogenetic relationships the team identified several evolutionary family trees for the early plants.  The liverworts could be a sister clade to all other land plants, with either mosses, hornworts or a moss-hornwort grouping as the sister group to the Tracheophytes.

Seven Alternative Cladistic Relationships for Early Plants were Considered in the Study

The possible cladistic relationships between early land plants.

The possible cladistic relationships between early land plants.

Picture Credit: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

However, when each of these phylogenetic relationships was tested in turn, against the molecular clock model, the end result still indicated an origin of land plants some 100 million years earlier than previously thought.  The researchers conclude that the first land plants may therefore have originated during the Late Cambrian or at the latest during the Early Ordovician.

The scientific paper: “Timescale of Early Land Plant Evolution” by J. L. Morris, M. N. Puttick, J. Clark, D. Edwards, P. Kenrick, S. Pressel, C. H. Wellman, Z. Yang, H. Schneider and P. C. J. Donoghue, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA).

20 02, 2018

New Schleich Prehistoric Animals (Summer 2018)

By | February 20th, 2018|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products, Press Releases|0 Comments

New Schleich Prehistoric Animals (Summer 2018)

Here are our first pictures of the second batch of Schleich prehistoric animal models to be released in 2018.  Collectors and dinosaur fans will probably be aware that Everything Dinosaur has had in stock the January 2018 Schleich releases for some time, joining these figures are three new prehistoric animals, two dinosaurs and one flying reptile.  The models are a juvenile Therizinosaurus, a juvenile Tyrannosaurus rex and a Pteranodon replica.  All three models are expected to be in stock at Everything Dinosaur in July.

The New for 2018 Schleich Juvenile Therizinosaurus Model (Available July 2018)

Schleich juvenile Therizinosaurus dinosaur model.

Schleich juvenile Therizinosaurus.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Schleich Juvenile Therizinosaurus

This model is slightly smaller than the Therizinosaurus model with the red/black colour scheme that was introduced a few weeks ago, hence the juvenile moniker.   Both the arms and the lower jaw are articulated (we think) and the body proportions are slightly different when compared to the adult Therizinosaurus.  The sculpt gives the impression of feathers on the body and the blood-red colouration is quite striking.  There is much more red on the juvenile figure when compared to the adult Therizinosaurus model (see below).

The Adult Therizinosaurus Dinosaur Model (Schleich)

Schleich Therizinosaurus dinosaur model.

Schleich new Therizinosaurus (January 2018).

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The head shape and the blood-red colouration gives the Schleich juvenile Therizinosaurus a dragon-like quality.

Schleich Juvenile Tyrannosaurus rex

Also due out in the summer is a second juvenile figure, this time it is a juvenile Tyrannosaurus rex.   When this new T. rex figure comes out (July 2018), it will become the third large, individual Tyrannosaurus rex model available in the Schleich range.

Available July 2018 The Schleich Juvenile Tyrannosaurus rex

Schleich juvenile Tyrannosaurus rex.

Schleich juvenile T. rex.  The larger, more robust adult Schleich T. rex figure can be seen in the background.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

This is an interesting sculpt, as although it is very similar to the Schleich T. rex figure that came out last year, it does have a different skull shape and subtle differences in the paint scheme.  For example, it has black vertical bands, perhaps to help hide this juvenile Tyrannosaurus rex from other apex predators such as larger members of its own kind or the fearsome, dromaeosaurid Dakotaraptor (D. steini).  Recently, it has been proposed that tyrannosaurids may have lived in family groups, if they did, then this implies that they would have probably hunted as a pack.  Palaeontologists know that as T. rex grew, it underwent a dramatic transformation.  It changed from a relatively fleet-footed, long-legged animal into a robust, heavy-weight bruiser.  Both types of T. rex model are depicted in the photograph above, the juvenile figure is in front of the larger adult model.  These two figures could represent two tyrannosaurids in a family, a sub-adult and the larger, heavier fully-grown animal.  Each family member might have had a specialised role in hunting, the faster, more agile juveniles could pursue the intended victim, shepherding them to the large, fully-grown adults that were responsible for bringing the prey down.

Schleich Pteranodon Model (July 2018)

Team members at Everything Dinosaur remember the Pteranodon model with a blue coloured head crest that was part of the old “Saurus” range and was retired around a decade ago.  Schleich are bringing back a large, individual Pteranodon model, but the new figure (available July 2018), is radically different.

The New for 2018 Schleich Pteranodon Model

Schleich flying reptile (Pteranodon).

Schleich Pteranodon model.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

This flying reptile model continues the current Schleich leitmotif for bright and colourful figures.  The model is posed as if it is flying and in the examples that we have seen, the painting around the head and that long beak is excellent.  We do appreciate that this figure has a somewhat stylised appearance, but we don’t want to quibble as it seems particularly suitable for robust, creative play.  Pteranodon remains one of the better-known members of the Pterosauria amongst young fans of ancient life, we suspect the popularity of Pteranodon may have influenced Schleich when it came to bringing back a Pteranodon model into its range.

A Close-up View of the New for 2018 Schleich Pteranodon Model

Schleich Pteranodon replica.

Schleich Pteranodon model.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To view the current range of Schleich prehistoric animal models available from Everything Dinosaur, including all the early 2018 releases: Schleich Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Animals

All three models are expected to be in stock around July 2018.

19 02, 2018

Dinosaur Poems

By | February 19th, 2018|Dinosaur Fans, Educational Activities, Main Page, Teaching|0 Comments

A Poem About Parasaurolophus

Whilst delivering a dinosaur and fossil workshop with a Year 1 class, we were asked to help inspire the children by providing some inspirational poems about prehistoric animals. The class had been looking at poetry and its rhythmic qualities, writing poems about animals that lived close to the Poles when they were studying “life in the freezer” during the first part of the Spring Term. The teacher wanted to reintroduce this exercise, but this time to tie it in with the topic for the remainder of the Spring Term – dinosaurs.

A Poem About Parasaurolophus

Parasaurolophus poem.

A poem about the Hadrosaur Parasaurolophus.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Fortunately, the Everything Dinosaur fossil expert had spotted numerous dinosaur and fossil themed poems during his many school visits and he was able to share some of these resources with the teaching team. Our team member had even come across a short piece of prose dedicated to the Late Cretaceous duck-billed dinosaur Parasaurolophus, a plant-eater with a bizarre head crest.

The Duck-billed Dinosaur Parasaurolophus

Mojo Parasaurolophus dinosaurs.

The Mojo Parasaurolophus dinosaur models (biped and quadruped).  Note the bizarre head crest.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Poetic Parasaurolophus

The role the crest played is debated by palaeontologists. It may have had a flap of skin, attaching the crest to the back of the neck and this might have been brightly coloured, allowing the crest to be used as an effective device for visual communication. The crest itself, could have played a role in signalling, perhaps its size and length demonstrated maturity or fitness for breeding. The dinosaur’s nostrils were connected to the crest by a series of complicated hollow tubes. Some palaeontologists have speculated that the crest could have acted as an amplifier or resonating device giving these dinosaurs very distinctive calls.

Whatever the purpose of that head crest, it was good to find a poem about a “tooting” Parasaurolophus!

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