All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
/Animal News Stories

News stories and articles that do not necessarily feature extinct animals.

22 03, 2018

Frog spawn in the Office Pond

By | March 22nd, 2018|Animal News Stories, Educational Activities, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page|0 Comments

Frog Spawn in the Pond

After a false start, when we noticed one clump of unfertilised frog spawn in our pond, we are happy to announce that on the morning of the 17th March we spotted three clumps of newly laid frog spawn.  The first eggs were produced on the 20th of February, just prior to a sudden cold snap.  Whether a female frog had been stressed we don’t know, but despite our careful gathering of the tennis ball-sized clump of spawn and storing it in a goldfish bowl along with some of the pond water and pond weed, the eggs failed to develop.  Our intention was to protect the spawn from the extremely cold weather and then once the snow had melted, to re-introduce the spawn into the pond.

 Frog Spawn in the Office Pond (March 2018)

Frog spawn in the office pond (2018).

Frog spawn 2018, at least three clumps of spawn have been spotted.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Later Than Last Year

The spawning has taken place around a week later than last year.  We suspect the cold weather delayed the onset of breeding.  Hopefully, with the approach of warmer weather (no snow at least), this spawn will be able to develop and soon we will have tadpoles to observe.  The amount of spawn, is about average, we estimate that three females laid eggs.  Although the eggs tend to merge into one, single mat of jelly, if you can observe the egg masses before they swell you can get a reasonable idea of the number of fertile females present.

We Intend to Keep a Close Watch on the Frog Spawn

Frog spawn in the office pond (2018).

Frog spawn 2018.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Our pond is a haven for wildlife and we hope that at least some of the tadpoles make it to adulthood.   Common Frogs (Rana temporaria) inhabit our pond, although sadly, these animals like most of the native British amphibians are no longer common.  At least our little pond is helping with conservation efforts.

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

29 09, 2017

Everything Dinosaur Newsletter (Mid-September)

By | September 29th, 2017|Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Everything Dinosaur Newsletters, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products|0 Comments

Prehistoric Elephants and Extant Elephants et al

A few days ago, Everything Dinosaur sent out their latest newsletter to their customer database.  A number of recent product introductions and one eagerly anticipated new model were featured.  Linking these two parts of the newsletter was the elephant family (Elephantidae), as the newsletter focused on the beautiful Family Zoo animal models including the fantastic African elephant (Loxodonta) and updated subscribers on the museum quality Steppe Mammoth replica coming into stock (Mammuthus trogontherii).

The Everything Dinosaur Newsletter Featured the Eofauna Scientific Research Steppe Mammoth Model

Everything Dinosaur newsletter (Sept. 2017).

Everything Dinosaur newsletter (mid-September 2017).

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Steppe Mammoth Strides into View

The Steppe Mammoth replica is in 1:40 scale and it is the first in a new line of museum quality replicas from Eofauna Scientific Research.  Everything Dinosaur has been given a degree of exclusive distributorship over the sales of this exciting prehistoric elephant model.  A reserve list has been opened which allows model fans to have one of these fantastic figures set aside for them.  There is no obligation to purchase, no deposit needed and no requirement to pre-order.  Customers know that there is a model allocated to them and one of our dedicated team members will email them to let them know that the model is available should they wish to buy it.

To enquire about the Eofauna Scientific Research Steppe Mammoth model and reserve a replica: Email: Everything Dinosaur

Living Members of the Elephant Family and Chums

The second part of the Everything Dinosaur newsletter focuses on the superb PNSO Family Zoo range of models.  Firstly, there is the fantastic collection of ten animals from Asia.  These ten figures represent animals that are culturally very important to our species.  The hand-painted models include pandas, tigers, horses, brown bears, goats, wolves and dogs.   This collection is known as the “PNSO Family Zoo Ten Most Popular Asian Animals” and they are extremely hard to obtain.  Thankfully, Everything Dinosaur has brought a number of sets over from China, our stock even includes the rare pig model and the Siamese crocodile.

The PNSO Family Zoo Asian Animals

PNSO Family Zoo Asian Animals

PNSO Family Zoo Ten Most Popular Asian Animals.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

To view the PNSO Family Zoo range of models available from Everything Dinosaur: PNSO Family Zoo

Extant Animals Take Centre Stage in the Everything Dinosaur Newsletter

Promoting PNSO Family Zoo models.

Promoting PNSO Family Zoo Ten Most Poplar Asian and Ten Most Popular African Animals.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The second part of the PNSO Family Zoo range features those living creatures regarded as “free spirits”.  The models represent ten models of animals from the African Savannah.  The “PNSO Family Zoo Ten Most Popular African Animals” includes rhinos, lions, hyenas, cheetahs, zebras, wildebeest and of course a beautiful African elephant model.

The PNSO Ten Most Popular African Animals

PNSO Family Zoo Asian Animals.

PNSO Family Zoo Ten Most Popular Asian Animals.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Naturally, a newsletter from Everything Dinosaur also included dinosaurs, updates on the Rebor 1:35 scale King T. rex as this figure came back into stock, plus highlights of fossil and prehistoric animal news studies that we had covered on our various blogs and social media sites.

To subscribe to Everything Dinosaur’s regular newsletter, simply drop us an email: Email Everything Dinosaur

To see the full range of PNSO Family Zoo models including those wonderful elephants: PNSO Family Zoo Models and Figures

14 09, 2017

Everything Dinosaur Adds PNSO Family Zoo

By | September 14th, 2017|Animal News Stories, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page, Press Releases|0 Comments

PNSO Family Zoo Models Added to Everything Dinosaur’s Range

Everything Dinosaur has added the PNSO Family Zoo range of animal models to its product portfolio.  The Family Zoo range currently consists of twenty animal models, representing extant creatures as diverse as tigers, pandas, hippos, horses and dogs. Each model is hand-painted and presented in its own blister packaging.  PNSO has built up a deserved reputation for the excellence of its prehistoric animal models, the “PNSO Age of Dinosaurs Toys”, now collectors have the chance to add the entire Family Zoo range to their collections.

The PNSO Family Zoo Ten Most Popular Asian Animals

The PNSO Family Zoo ten most popular Asian animals.

PNSO Family Zoo 10 most popular Asian animals.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Family Zoo Ten Most Popular Asian Animals

The ten animals in the Family Zoo Asian models range are: Brown Bear, Horse, Tiger, Goat, Wolf, Dog, Pig, Siamese Crocodile, Cow and a Panda.  This might seem like an eclectic mix of animals, however, the Family Zoo Asian models represent creatures that have had an intimate relationship with our own species.  Many animals have become domesticated whilst others have been revered in different Asian cultures, the choice of animal in this range reflects the impact that these animals have had and celebrates their importance and their significance to our own species.  The Family Zoo Ten Most Popular Asian Animals commemorates these creatures and their fascinating stories which are interwoven with our own history.

The Beautifully Painted PNSO Family Zoo Tiger Model

The PNSO Family Zoo Tiger figure.

PNSO Family Zoo Tiger model.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The picture shows the wonderful PNSO Family Zoo Tiger figure.  Tigers are icons in both the East and the West (the oriental and occidental cultures).

To view the entire PNSO Family Zoo range of models available from Everything Dinosaur: PNSO Family Zoo Animal Models

Family Zoo Ten Most Popular African Animals

The animals that make up the PNSO Family Zoo ten most popular African animals in contrast, represent creatures that although very important to various human cultures, have never been successfully domesticated.  This model range (all mammals), consists of Wildebeest, African Buffalo, African Lion, Spotted Hyena, Cheetah, African Elephant, Giraffe, Zebra, Hippopotamus and a Black Rhinoceros.

The PNSO Family Zoo Ten Most Popular African Animals

PNSO Family Zoo Ten Most Popular African Animals.

The PNSO Family Zoo 10 most popular African animals.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Each skilfully, hand-painted animal figure represents an iconic wild animal from Africa.  In the PNSO product literature, this range is described as:

“There are many free spirits roaming the vast Savannah of Africa.  We have produced the Family Zoo range to express our love for nature.”

All the replicas in the “Asian” and “African” ranges show wonderful anatomical details and the colouration of the models is fantastic.  It is hard to choose a favourite, but the Black Rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis), is amongst our favourites, it is great to see a model of this critically endangered large mammal.

The PNSO Family Zoo Black Rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis)

PNSO Family Zoo Black Rhinoceros replica.

The PNSO Family Zoo Black Rhinoceros model.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The PNSO Family Zoo Black Rhinoceros measures a fraction under eleven centimetres in length and this splendid figure is a marvellous companion to the large PNSO White Rhinoceros replica, one of three large-scale figures of iconic African mammals produced by PNSO.

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur commented:

“These figures are rare and difficult to obtain, so we are delighted to be able to offer the PNSO Family Zoo to collectors and animal model fans.”

The PNSO Family Zoo range available from Everything Dinosaur: PNSO Family Zoo Animal Models

7 09, 2017

National Thylacine Day

By | September 7th, 2017|Animal News Stories, Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products|0 Comments

National Thylacine Day

Today, marks the 81st anniversary of the death of the last known Thylacine.  The animal, nick-named Benjamin, died this day (7th September 1936), at Beaumaris Zoo (Hobart, Tasmania).  The Thylacine (sometimes referred to as the Tasmanian Tiger, probably due to its prominent stripes), was the largest carnivorous marsupial of the Holocene Epoch.  It was the last member of the once diverse and numerous Thylacinidae family, which once ranged over Australia and New Guinea.

Over the last few years, Everything Dinosaur has been able to add a couple of Thylacine models to its extensive range of prehistoric and extinct animal replicas.  In 2016, CollectA added a female Thylacine model to its hugely popular CollectA Prehistoric Life model range.  The model can be clearly identified as a female because of the very obvious pouch.  The CollectA Thylacine model measures a fraction under twelve centimetres in length and the model’s head is some five centimetres off the ground.

The CollectA Thylacine Model

The CollectA Thylacine replica.

The CollectA Thylacine model.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The distended pouch suggests that this particular Thylacine is carrying young.  This impressive, hand-painted model has received excellent reviews.  For example, a recent 5-star FEEFO review stated that this CollectA model was:

“Very high-quality product.”

Thylacinus cynocephalus

Aboriginal rock art records Thylacines and numerous fossil sites are known from Western Australia.  The Tasmanian Tiger ranged extensively over Australia and Tasmania, a mummified carcass was discovered in the famous Nullarbor Cave in 1969 by a field team from the Western Australian Museum.

Mojo Fun also has a Thylacine replica in its model range (Mojo Fun Prehistoric and Extinct Animals), this replica is approximately the same size as the CollectA model and just like the CollectA replica, it is hand-painted.  Everything Dinosaur added this model range to its portfolio as part of plans to expand the company’s extensive model range.

The Mojo Fun Thylacine Model

The Mojo Fun Thylacine.

The Mojo Fun Thylacine model.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The Mojo Fun Thylacine has also received excellent reviews from collectors, such as this 5-star FEEFO rating – “Well-made model, exactly as presented on your web site.”

Quality Thylacine Models

Such is the quality of these two figures, that we have supplied numerous scientists, academics and museum staff with these models.

To view the range of prehistoric and extinct animal replicas available from Everything Dinosaur: The Models Available from Everything Dinosaur

September 7th is “National Threatened Species Day” in Australia.  This day is dedicated to acknowledging the efforts of those hard-working conservationists who strive to protect Australia’s flora and fauna.  It is also a day for remembering the Thylacine, our species Homo sapiens, was responsible for the extinction of this beautiful and little understood predator.

There have been several credible sightings in recent years, and prompted by some plausible eye-witness accounts, scientists from James Cook University have set up camera traps in a remote part of northern Queensland in a bid to capture irrefutable evidence that this enigmatic marsupial still exists.  Everything Dinosaur featured the plans to hunt for Thylacines in a blog article published in the spring: Hunting for Tasmanian Tigers.  The idea that a handful of “Tigers” might be still in the outback, is a very intriguing idea, however, scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, put together a mathematical model to assess the probability of the Thylacine still existing.  Having assessed all the sightings and other evidence, the most optimistic view is that the Thylacine might have persisted to around 1950 but the chances of finding a Thylacine alive today are extremely remote.  How remote?  About 1 in 1.6 trillion according to the mathematicians.

18 08, 2017

How the Chloroplast Got Started

By | August 18th, 2017|Adobe CS5, Animal News Stories, Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page|0 Comments

The Origin of the Chloroplast

At the centre of most of our planet’s ecosystems are plants and algae that utilise sunlight and transform carbon dioxide and water into carbohydrates and release oxygen.  These very specialised organisms can make their own food, by using light energy combined with CO2 and H2O.  As part of this process, the water molecule is split and oxygen is produced as a by-product.  This process takes place in specialised subunits within a cell called a chloroplast.

Plants and Algae are Fundamental to Most Food Chains on the Planet

Tropical ferns in the forest.

Plants and algae form the basis for most of Earth’s biota.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The theory as to how algae and plants evolved goes something like this – an ancient single-celled eukaryote absorbed a photosynthesising bacterium (blue-green algae otherwise known as photosynthesising cyanobacteria).  Such an event would normally have been disastrous for both parties, but for some reason, both the eukaryote and the cyanobacteria survived and this led to the development of a symbiotic association.  Whilst it is accepted that the cyanobacteria are the ancestors of the chloroplast, it is not clear which of the myriad of cyanobacteria are the closest relations of the chloroplast and when this association began, or indeed where on our planet this fortuitous event took place.

The Evolution of More Complex Life Via the Symbiotic Fusing of Different Kinds of Bacteria

The origins of complex life.

Complex eukaryote cells evolved by the symbiotic fusing of different kinds of bacteria.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The diagram above shows one theory of how more complex lifeforms evolved.  Four different types of bacteria, each with their own specific adaptations and biological characteristics may have merged to create the three main forms of multi-cellular life – animals, plants and fungi.

  • Merger 1 – Bacteria with the ability to produce food via fermentation merged with a swimming bacterium.
  • Merger 2 – An oxygen utilising bacterium invaded this first host and formed the cell mitochondria.
  • Merger 3 – Algae fused with photosynthesising cyanobacteria, which then became the cell chloroplast – the subject of the newly published study.

A team of scientists, including researchers from Bristol University, may have found the answers to these questions.  Writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, they postulate that the chloroplast lineage split from their closet cyanobacterial ancestor more than 2.1 billion years ago and this took place in low salinity environments.  The team conclude that it took another 200 million years for the chloroplast and the eukaryotic host to be fully united into a symbiotic relationship.  Marine algae groups diversified much later, at around 800 to 750 million years ago, sometime in the Neoproterozoic Era.

Lead author of the study, Dr Patricia Sanchez-Baracaldo (University of Bristol’s School of Geographical Sciences), commented:

“The results of this study imply that complex organisms such as algae first evolved in freshwater environments, and later colonised marine environments – these results also have huge implications to understanding the carbon cycle.  Genomic data and sophisticated evolutionary methods can now be used to draw a more complete picture of early life on land; complementing what has been previously inferred from the fossil record.”

Co-author, Professor Davide Pisani (Bristol University) added:

“Our planet is a beautiful place and it exists in such a sharp contrast with the rest of the solar system.  Think about those beautiful satellite pictures where you see the green of the forests and the blue/green tone of the water.  Well, Earth was not like that before photosynthesis.  Before photosynthesis it was an alien place, uninhabitable by humans.  Here we made some big steps to clarify how Earth become the planet we know today, and I think that that is just wonderful.”

The team used a combination of phylogenomic and Bayesian analytical methods to conclude that the chloroplast lineage branched deep within the cyanobacterial tree of life, around 2.1 billion years ago, and ancestral trait reconstruction places this event in low-salinity environments.  The chloroplast took another 200 million years to become established, with most extant (modern groups living today), forms originating much later.

Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the assistance of a Bristol University press release in the compilation of this article.

13 07, 2017

A Whale of a Time at the Natural History Museum

By | July 13th, 2017|Animal News Stories, Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Turning our Attention to Mantellisaurus

All change at the Natural History Museum in London with the refurbished main gallery (the Hintze Hall), opening to the public tomorrow.  Suspended over the hall, and replacing the Diplodocus cast (Dippy), will be “Hope” a 25.2-metre-long skeleton of a female Blue Whale (Balaenoptera musculus) symbolising the Museum’s focus on conservation and the natural world.

Ready to Greet Millions of Visitors – The Blue Whale Skeleton (Hintze Hall)

Blue Whale skeleton.

The female Blue Whale skeleton at the London Natural History Museum.

Picture Credit: The Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London

A Conservation Success – So Far

The whale skeleton, some 4.5 tonnes and all 221 bones of it, had previously been on display in the mammals gallery of the museum but it had been partially hidden from public view.  Newly restored and augmented, thanks to some subtle 3-D printing to supplement the bones in the right flipper, this spectacular exhibit is depicted plunging towards the main gallery entrance as if the leviathan is attempting to scoop up visitors.  The Blue Whale helps to highlight a conservation success story.  Fifty years ago, the Blue Whale population had plummeted to just a few hundred and this, the largest animal known to have existed, was on the verge of extinction.  International conservation efforts to help preserve and support populations of baleen whales have paid off, at least in the case of Balaenoptera musculus with an estimated 20,000 individuals swimming the oceans of the world today.  Still this represents less than one tenth of the estimated Blue Whale population at the beginning of the 19th Century.

A Spectacular Pose for “Hope” the Blue Whale Skeleton

The Blue Whale exhibit.

The Blue Whale exhibit (Hintze Hall).

Picture Credit: The Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London

A Nod to Whale Evolution

Visitors to the gallery, may miss a tiny pair of bones located under the massive spinal column of the beast.  If you look up around the mid-point of the spine you might just be able to make out two tiny triangular bones, supported by wires underneath a vertebra.  These are the remains of the hip bones and hind limbs.  These bones are not visible in the living animal, they serve no real purpose anymore, except to prove that whales are descended from four-legged, terrestrial animals.  In fact, whales (Cetacea), belong in the Order Artiodactyla, the even-toed hoofed mammals and molecular studies suggest their nearest land-living relatives today are the Hippopotamuses (hippos and whales are grouped into the Whippomorpha).

Proof that Whales are Descended from Terrestrial Mammals

Hind limbs of the blue whale.

Evidence of the hind limbs of the Blue Whale.

Picture Credit: The Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London

Lorraine Cornish, the Museum’s Head of Conservation, exclaimed:

“Hope is the only blue whale skeleton in the world to be hung in the diving lunge feeding position.  Suspending such a large, complex and historical specimen from a Victorian ceiling was always going to be challenging, but we were determined to show her in as lifelike position as possible and we are thrilled that the result is truly spectacular.”

Wonder Bays – Look out for Mantellisaurus

“Dippy” may have gone but the Hintze Hall will be home to one dinosaur at least.  In one of the side bays a mounted skeleton of the iguanodontid Mantellisaurus (M.atherfieldensis) has been put on display.

A Nod to Gideon Mantell – Mantellisaurus

Mantellisaurus on display.

Mantellisaurus on display in the Hintze Hall.

Picture Credit: The Trustees of the Natural History Museum, London

The mounted Mantellisaurus specimen represents one of the most complete dinosaur specimens excavated from the UK.  At Everything Dinosaur, we think the specimen is NHMUK R5764, if it is, this is the holotype and it was discovered in 1914, by a local fossil collector called Reginald Hooley whilst he was exploring several, large shale blocks near Atherfield Point (Isle of Wight).  During his lifetime, Sir Richard Owen, the anatomist who helped found what is now called the Natural History Museum, did a great deal to denigrate the work of his contemporary Gideon Mantell.  Dinosaur fans as well as distinguished palaeontologists we think, will approve of the Museum’s recognition of Mantell’s contribution to the nascent study of dinosaurs.  Owen’s statue might look down on the exhibits, but the mounted skeleton, once assigned to the Iguanodon genus, now stands proud on the eastern side of the Hintze Hall and it bears the name of one of the other great contributors to early palaeontology.

We look forward to visiting the Museum in the near future.  We will marvel at the spectacular Blue Whale nodding its head in our direction as we walk in, but in turn we will stand before the Mantellisaurus and nod our heads in recognition of the work of Gideon Mantell who did much to shine a light, where before there was only darkness.

6 06, 2017

Foul-mouthed Study – Variation in Duck and Goose Beaks

By | June 6th, 2017|Animal News Stories, Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Diet Shaped the Evolution of the Beaks of Ducks and Geese

For Aaron Olsen, a walk in a park to see the ducks and other birds serenely swimming on the local pond has added significance.  Ducks and geese, common waterfowl that we are all familiar with, have fascinated the postdoctoral researcher at Brown University (Rhode Island, USA).  For Aaron, seeing gaggles of geese and rafts of ducks has led him to question how such a myriad of different beak forms have evolved within the waterfowl clade (Anseriformes).  Publishing in the academic journal “Functional Ecology”, the scientist has concluded that different diets and different feeding strategies are the main drivers of beak shape.

The Beaks of Ducks and Geese Come in All Shapes and Sizes

Anseriformes - skulls variation due to dietary preferences.

From left to right a gradient of duck-to-goose-skulls.  Research shows that waterfowl beaks vary primarily because of differences in diet and feeding behaviour.

Picture Credit: Aaron Olsen

Ancient Anseriformes (Prehistoric Ducks)

The analysis of the relationship between beak shape and diet amongst waterfowl shows that feeding is most likely to be the major influence on bill shape, but it also suggests that the early members of the Anseriformes were more like ducks than geese.  The main evolutionary driver when it comes to the shape of the beaks of waterfowl is their diet.

Commenting on his research, Aaron Olsen, of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Brown University stated:

“This is the most comprehensive look to date at the relationship between diet and beak shape.”

The oldest member of the Anseriformes is Vegavis (V. iaai), fossils of which have been found in Upper Cretaceous rocks (Maastrichtian faunal stage) of Antarctica.  Waterfowl, the ancestors of today’s ducks and geese were present some 66 million years ago, although their evolutionary roots probably go back further into the Mesozoic.

Vegavis of Late Cretaceous Antarctica

The vocalisation of dinosaurs and birds.

Vegavis takes off whilst a male Theropod dinosaur vocalises close by.

Picture Credit: Nicole Fuller/Sayo Art for University of Texas at Austin

Scientists have identified the vocalisation organ of Vegavis, this bird may have made a honking sound.

To read more about this research: Ancient Bird Box Sheds Light on the Sounds of Early Anseriformes

Waterfowl – Different Beak Shapes

Whilst working at the University of Chicago and the nearby Field Museum of Natural History, Aaron set out to explore the reasons why waterfowl have such differently shaped beaks.  He suspected that diet and feeding behaviour might play a pivotal role in beak morphology, but rather than compare diets and feeding strategies he undertook a detailed three-dimensional analysis of bird skulls and their bills.  He then cross-referenced his findings with literature on the diet of each bird.  A total of 136 specimens were involved in the study, covering 46 genera and 51 species.  As well as looking at living species, the study included an analysis of the recently extinct, flightless duck Thambetochen chauliodous of the larger Hawaiian Islands (except Hawaii), which prior to the arrival of domesticated animals, were the main browsers of vegetation on the isolated archipelago.  The research also involved an analysis of the skull and beak of a much older water bird – Presbyornis spp. from the Palaeocene and the Eocene Epochs.

Extant Goose Skull and Extant Duck Skull Compared to the Ancient Anseriform Presbyornis

Comparing duck and goose skulls.

A Cape Barren goose skull (top) has a very different beak than that of a freckled duck (middle), which does resemble the fossil skull of Presbyornis (bottom).

Mathematical Analysis – Plotting Beak Evolution

Data analysis revealed that there was a strong correlation between dietary preferences and beak shape.  Ducks tend to have relatively long, wide-tipped beaks that can accommodate a lot of water. Ducks feed by filtering out food such as invertebrates and plant seeds from water, whereas geese evolved to feed on the leaves and roots of plants (although some still filter feed).  Most geese have shorter, narrower beaks better designed for browsing on plants.

Dr Olsen contends that the correlation between beak morphology and diet is so strong that other roles for beaks, such as preening and cooling would have had little influence, although he does not rule out these other functions having a role in the evolution of beak shape.

First Ducks Then Geese

In a review of the scientific literature, Aaron, a specialist in Anseriform research, suggests that the early ancestors of extant ducks, geese and other related waterfowl, were very duck-like.  Geese-like beaks evolved later, evolving several times in several places.  In summary, Dr Olsen concludes a duck-like beak is ancestral for most waterfowl with several independent transitions to a more goose-like beak shape occurring over time.

Next time you are in the park, take a look at the ducks and other water birds, the ancestors of these birds lived alongside the dinosaurs.  It’s also worth noting that ducks and geese are technically dinosaurs too, after all, they are all members of the Theropoda.

Non-Avian Dinosaurs and Avian Dinosaurs (Birds)

Dinosaurs and birds.

Avian and non-avian dinosaurs.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The scientific paper: “Feeding Ecology is the Primary Driver of Beak Shape Diversification in Waterfowl”, by Aaron M. Olsen published in Functional Ecology.

23 04, 2017

Happy St George’s Day

By | April 23rd, 2017|Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Dinosaur Names Related to Dragons – St George’s Day

Today, April 23rd, is St George’s Day, the national day for England (St George is the patron saint of England, a saint incidentally celebrated and revered by a number of other countries too).  The story about brave St George slaying a dragon might be a myth, but we thought just for fun we might try and list as many dinosaurs associated with dragons as we could.  This is harder than it seems, for example, St George is honoured in both western and eastern cultures and in China, the origin of the dragon legends could have originated from the discovery of fossils of dinosaurs.  Which dinosaurs?  We don’t think anyone can be sure.

The White Horse Prehistoric Chalk Figure at Uffington (Oxfordshire) Has Been Described as Dragon

The Uffington chalk figure.

Children draw the Uffington prehistoric chalk figure.

Picture Credit: Great Wood Primary School

Chinese Dragon Dinosaurs

The word “long” translated from the Chinese means “dragon” so we could have the Theropods Guanlong, Shaochilong, Zhenyuanlong, Dilong and Zuolong for starters.  To this list, we could add the basal Ceratopsian Yinlong (Y. downsi) and we must not forget the beautiful “sleeping dragon” fossil, representing a troodontid, named as Mei long.

An Illustration of the Sleeping Dragon (M. long)

Mei long illustration.

The sleeping dragon Mei long.

Dinosaurs and Dragons

As well as those dinosaurs from Asia with names that reference dragons, there are a number of genera named after the Latin for dragon “draco”. How many can we name?

Firstly, we have Dracoraptor hanigani, a very early Jurassic dinosaur from Wales, a country with its own dragon culture and stories.

An Illustration of the Welsh Theropod Dracoraptor (D. hanigani)

Dracoraptor hanigani.

An illustration of the Theropod dinosaur from Wales Dracoraptor hanigani.

Picture Credit: Bob Nicholls (National Museum of Wales)

In addition, we can add Pantydraco (P. caducus), a Late Triassic member of the Sauropodomorpha from the Vale of Glamorgan.  What other dinosaur dragons can we think of?

Here’s our list:

  • Dracovenator (D. regenti) – from the Early Jurassic of South Africa, believed to be a dilophosaurid.
  • Dracorex (D. hogwartsia) – A member of the bone-headed Pachycephalosauridae named and described in 2006
  • Draconyx (D. loureiroi) – from Portugal a possible iguanodontid.
  • Dracopelta (D. zbyszewskii) – from Portugal, fragmentary fossils indicate a Thyreophoran (armoured dinosaur affinity)
  • Dracoraptor (D. hanigani) – from Wales (see notes above)
  • Pantydraco (P. caducus) – (see above)

A Mounted Skeleton of Dracorex (D. hogwartsia)

Reconstruction of Dracorex.

Dracorex fossil skeleton.

Picture Credit: Indianapolis Children’s Museum

How many dragon inspired dinosaurs can you name?

5 04, 2017

Hunting for Tasmanian Tigers

By | April 5th, 2017|Animal News Stories, Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page|0 Comments

Scientists Prepare to Set Camera Traps in Hunt for Thylacine

Ever since the last known Thylacine died in Hobart zoo back in 1936, there have been numerous “sightings” both in Tasmania and on the Australian mainland of this marsupial, frequently referred to as the “Tasmanian Tiger”.  Most of these reports have been dismissed either as hoaxes, or as observers mistaking foxes or feral dogs for the largest carnivorous marsupial known to have co-existed with modern man during the Holocene Epoch.

Grainy photographs and blurred film footage have come to prominence from time to time, helping to fuel the debate as to whether Thylacines (Thylacinus cynocephalus), which were believed to have been hunted to extinction, might just have survived, with a few scattered populations holding on.

A Picture of the Last Known Thylacine

A photograph of a Thylacine.

A picture of “Benjamin” the last known Thylacine to live in captivity.  This animal died in Hobart zoo (Tasmania) in 1936.

Picture Credit: David Fleay

Scientific Expedition to a Remote Location in Northern Queensland

A field team will be dispatched to the remote Cape York Peninsula (northern Queensland), in a bid to search for evidence of the existence of a surviving Thylacine population.  The team, led by Professor Bill Laurance of James Cook University (Queensland), hope to set fifty camera traps in the area so that photographic proof can be established.  The Cape York Peninsula has been chosen as a number of credible witness accounts of possible sightings, including one from a tourism operator and former park ranger, have occurred in the locality.

Professor Laurance commented:

“All observations of putative Thylacines to date have been at night, and in one case four animals were observed at close range, about 20 feet away, with a spotlight.  We have cross-checked the descriptions we received of eye shine colour, body size and shape, animal behaviour, and other attributes, and these are inconsistent with known attributes of other large-bodied species in north Queensland such as dingoes, wild dogs or feral pigs.”

The exact destination of the field team is being kept a closely guarded secret.  Nearly four thousand reported sightings have been recorded on the Australian mainland, it is the reports from qualified rangers, Aboriginal communities and the many credible witnesses that offer the tantalising prospect of a live population being identified.

Ranger Patrick Shears, explained that local Aboriginals call the beast the “moonlight tiger” and that many observers claim that these marsupials approach quite close, before turning their long, stiff tails and trotting away into the darkness.

A Reward Offered

Tasmanian tour operator Stuart Malcolm has offered an $1.75 million AUD (£1 million GBP), reward for proof that the Thylacine has survived to the present day.  Professor Laurance and his team are not interested in any reward money, after all, it was a bounty placed on each dead Thylacine recorded, that helped devastate the species in Tasmania.  The Professor is not particularly sanguine when it comes to the chances of the expedition being a success.  He has stated that it is very unlikely that the Thylacine has survived on the Australian mainland.   However, with a number of credible reports to guide them, it seems that if the Tasmanian Tiger has survived anywhere on the mainland of Australia, the Cape York Peninsula is a good place to start looking.

CollectA introduced a finely detailed model of a female Thylacine into their model range last year.  This model is quite hard to find, but not as difficult as a live Thylacine to track down.  Everything Dinosaur stocks this model, for the CollectA Thylacine and other rare CollectA models: CollectA Prehistoric Life Models

The CollectA Prehistoric Life Thylacine Model

The CollectA Thylacine replica.

The CollectA Thylacine model.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Everything Dinosaur intends to add a second Thylacine model to its already, extensive range later in the year.   Check this blog for more details about the model and also for updates on the Queensland expedition.

Load More Posts