All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
/Educational Activities

Everything Dinosaur’s work with schools and other educational bodies. Articles, features and stories about dinosaurs and their role in education and educating young people.

12 09, 2018

Remembering Mary and Joseph Anning

By | September 12th, 2018|Educational Activities, Famous Figures, Main Page, Teaching|0 Comments

Remembering Mary and Joseph Anning

When team members at Everything Dinosaur visit the coast of Dorset, they always try and take time out of their busy schedules to visit the grave of Mary Anning and her brother Joseph.  The grave of Mary and Joseph Anning can be found at St Michael the Archangel Church, in the appropriately named Church Street in the picturesque town of Lyme Regis.  In 1811, Mary along with her brother Joseph, discovered the fossilised remains of an Ichthyosaur, their first major, documented fossil discovery.  Within the Church itself, there is a stained glass window that honours the life and work of Mary Anning.  It was paid for in part, by members of the Geological Society in recognition of her contribution to this branch of scientific enquiry.

The Grave of Mary and Joseph Anning at Lyme Regis

Mary and Joseph Anning are buried here.

The grave of Mary and Joseph Anning.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Paying Tribute to Mary Anning (1799-1847)

A stained glass window in the church is not the only way in which the contribution of Mary is remembered.  Over the last few years it has become something of a tradition to place a fossil or a pebble from the beach on the grave.  This is a touching gesture, one that allows tourists as well as professional fossil hunters to acknowledge the work of a pioneer in palaeontology.  Everything Dinosaur team members have done much to support the inclusion of the story of Mary Anning and her fossil discoveries within the English National Curriculum.  Mary Anning is one of the historical figures included in many study texts and schemes of work associated with English Primary School curriculum.   Her life and work provides an excellent role model for many people, especially girls, who can learn about a female scientist, someone who might help and inspire them to take a greater interest in science subjects.

Within the town of Lyme Regis, a blue plaque has been erected on the site of the Anning family’s residence and Mary’s first fossil shop.  The house has long gone, but in its place stands the Lyme Regis Museum which contains numerous displays of Mary’s fossil discoveries as well as some of her personal effects.

The Blue Plaque on the Wall of the Lyme Regis Museum Commemorating the Life and Work of Mary Anning

Mary Anning 1799-1847 - her blue plaque.

The blue plaque commemorating the birth of Mary Anning outside the Lyme Regis Museum.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

8 09, 2018

Crystal Palace Statues Helping to Change Perceptions

By | September 8th, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Educational Activities, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Press Releases, Teaching|0 Comments

Crystal Palace Statues Helping with Outdoor Learning

Recently, Everything Dinosaur has been providing advice on how best to utilise the outdoor resources at the famous Crystal Palace Park in south London.  Schools have been invited to make the most of this area, with its historic “dinosaur statues”.  Outdoor learning is being encouraged and the park with its hard and soft landscaping as well as its iconic prehistoric animal figures makes a fantastic open space for creative activities linked to the English national curriculum.

One of the Dinosaur Statues on Display at the Park (Megalosaurus)

The Megalosaurus dinosaur at Crystal Palace Park.

The Megalosaurus statue at Crystal Palace – a dinosaur from 1854.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Prehistoric Animal Figures Not Just Dinosaurs

In reality, dinosaurs make up only a small proportion of the more than thirty statues on display.  The figures created by Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins with scientific input from the soon to be knighted Sir Richard Owen, who went onto to help found the London Natural History Museum, include marine reptiles, crocodilians, turtles and extinct mammals.  They were erected in the middle of the 19th Century (circa 1854) and they represent the first attempt to create life-size, dinosaur figures.  However, our view of the Dinosauria has evolved somewhat since the 1850’s and the dinosaurs, depicted as four-footed, tail-dragging scaly lizards, is wildly inaccurate by today’s standards.

Marine Reptiles Feature at Crystal Palace – Statues Inspired by the Discoveries Made by Mary Anning

Crystal Palace dinosaurs and prehistoric animals.

Prehistoric animal figures at Crystal Palace, the world’s first “Jurassic Park”.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Grade 1 Historic Monuments

All the figures are listed on Historic England’s “National Heritage List for England” as Grade 1 monuments.  This listing recognises the historic importance of these statues and a lot has been done to help preserve the dinosaurs and other figures as part of our country’s scientific and historical heritage.

In our advisory work, team members have suggested ways in which our changing views about the Dinosauria can be incorporated into the teaching programme.  The dinosaurs represented by the figures, the first three genera to be incorporated within the order Dinosauria, Megalosaurus, Hylaeosaurus and Iguanodon, show how our interpretation of the fossil record has changed over the last 170 years or so.  The statues provide a three-dimensional testament to how scientific ideas evolve and change in the light of new evidence.

The Iguanodon (Foreground) – A Modern Interpretation of an Iguanodontid

CollectA Deluxe Mapusaurus and the CollectA Deluxe Iguanodon

The CollectA 1:40 scale Iguanodon and Mapusaurus dinosaur models.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The spike associated with fossils of Iguanodon is now known to have been part of the hand (a thumb spike), whereas, in the 1854 model, the lizard-like Iguanodon statue has the spike incorrectly placed on the bridge of the snout.

One of the Iguanodon Figures on Display at Crystal Palace Park

One of the Crystal Palace Iguanodon statues.

One of the Iguanodon figures on display at Crystal Palace Park.  Note the “thumb spike” placed incorrectly on the nose.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Team members at Everything Dinosaur wish all those involved in the schools outreach programme at the Park every success.

To view scientifically accurate dinosaur models, including a 1:40 scale replica of an Iguanodon (I. bernissartensis): CollectA Deluxe Prehistoric Life Models and Figures

31 07, 2018

Having Fun at The Beacon Museum (Whitehaven)

By | July 31st, 2018|Dinosaur Fans, Educational Activities, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page|0 Comments

Having Fun at The Beacon Museum (Whitehaven)

Last weekend, Everything Dinosaur team members visited The Beacon Museum in Whitehaven, Cumbria to take part in “Dino Fest”, a series of events that had been organised by the enthusiastic museum staff to celebrate all things dinosaur.  This family-friendly museum has a temporary exhibition entitled “Brick Dinos”, it is a great attraction to help inspire little minds over the summer.

Child’s Play – A Masiakasaurus Made from Bricks

"Brick Dinos" - Masiakasaurus.

“Brick Dinos” a life-size replica of the Theropod Masiakasaurus.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

On the first floor of The Beacon Museum, we spotted a life-size Masiakasaurus replica.  Masiakasaurus was a predator, but what it ate is a bit of a mystery.  Its fossils come from northern Madagascar and it roamed the island (Madagascar split from eastern Africa during the Cretaceous), around 70 million years ago.  This animal’s teeth are unique amongst all known dinosaurs.  The teeth at the front of the jaws point forwards .  The teeth in the anterior portion of the lower jaw stick out almost horizontally.  The teeth are conical and very pointy.  It has been suggested that this dinosaur specialised in catching and eating fish, whilst some palaeontologists have proposed that it was an insectivore.

Dinosaur and Fossil Workshops

Everything Dinosaur was invited to deliver a special workshop for the Quantum Leap club members on the Friday afternoon and over the weekend, we provided two 2-hour workshops and a series of fossil hunting events.  We invited visitors to have a go at casting their own museum quality fossil replicas.  We were most impressed with the results with some excellent casts of dinosaur bones, teeth and claws produced by the eager, young prehistoric animal fans.

A Collection of Fossil Casts

Completed fossil casts.

Some of the completed fossil casts produced by visitors to The Beacon Museum (Whitehaven), who participated in Everything Dinosaur’s workshops.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Participants had the opportunity to cast an Edmontosaurus toe bone, a tooth from a tyrannosaurid (Daspletosaurus), as well as a Velociraptor toe claw and a hand claw from an Ornithomimus.  The Megalodon teeth we brought with us to cast, also proved popular.  To conclude our sessions, we invited guests to try to find their own fossils.  We have collected quite a lot of small fossils on our various adventures and team members were happy to help the young dinosaur fans spot sharks teeth, brachiopods, ammonites, turtle shell, crocodile scutes and small pieces of fossilised bone in our fossil trays.

“Eggcited” to Have Taken Part in the Weekend Dino Fest Activities

Dinosaur eggs.

Dinosaur eggs – part of the “Brick Dinos” exhibition on at The Beacon Museum, Whitehaven (Cumbria).

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

For further information about this exhibition at The Beacon Museum and to see what else this wonderful museum offers: The Beacon Museum at Whitehaven

25 07, 2018

Dino Fest at The Beacon Whitehaven

By | July 25th, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Educational Activities, Main Page, Press Releases|0 Comments

Dino Fest at The Beacon Whitehaven

The countdown has started, there are less than 48-hours to go before our first dinosaur and fossil workshop at The Beacon Museum (Whitehaven, Cumbria).  Staff at Everything Dinosaur have been preparing all the fossils and sorting out a vehicle so that it can be loaded up with all the fossils and other goodies which we will need this weekend as Everything Dinosaur delivers dinosaur and fossil workshops.  The plan is that visitors to Dino Fest at The Beacon will be able to help our team members hunt for fossils including real dinosaur bones!

Dino Fest from Friday 27th July until Sunday 29th July

Dino Fest at The Beacon Museum (Whitehaven)

Dino Fest at The Beacon Museum July 2018.

Picture Credit: The Beacon Museum/Natalie Burns

Be a Dinosaur Detective

Join team members from Friday afternoon and throughout the weekend and take part in fossil casting, fossil handling and get the chance to find your very own fossils of prehistoric animals.  What you find you can keep, so, why not start your very own fossil collection.

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur commented:

“We will be delivering a total of three workshops, starting Friday afternoon.  We plan to conduct some fossil casting of specimens from our collection, including T. rex teeth and Velociraptor claws and then we can look at dinosaur skulls and of course, being shark week, we will have to include some prehistoric sharks too.”

When not providing workshops, the team members from Everything Dinosaur will be laying out fossil trays and inviting visitors to The Beacon Museum to search for ancient crocodile armour, Silurian coral, fossilised wood, sharks teeth, brachiopods, ammonites and other evidence of ancient life Everything Dinosaur has collected on their travels around the world.  As you would expect from a company called “Everything Dinosaur”, there will be some dinosaur fossils to find as well.

Dinosaur and Fossil Themed Workshops at The Beacon Whitehaven

Everything Dinosaur and fossil workshops.

Everything Dinosaur at the Beacon Museum 27th July to 29th July.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Late Cretaceous Dinosaurs

An Everything Dinosaur spokesperson explained that as fossils erode out of the ground, they are acted upon by natural forces causing the material to weather.  If people did not go out hunting for fossils, then much of the fossil record would simply be eroded away and lost forever.

“Imagine a 66 million-year-old Triceratops leg bone, exposed by erosion in the Hell Creek Formation of Montana.  It might be from an animal that lived in the Late Cretaceous but just a few years of freeze/thaw and weathering and the bone would simply crumble away.  By conducting fossil workshops and helping to explain how to tell fossils from rock, we might one day help someone discover their very own prehistoric animal, after all, around 100 different dinosaurs are known from fossils found in the British Isles.”

For further information and to book: Dino Fest at The Beacon Museum

13 07, 2018

Young Palaeontologist Asks Questions About Dinosaurs

By | July 13th, 2018|Educational Activities, Main Page, Teaching|0 Comments

Ethan Asks About Dinosaurs

Budding young palaeontologist Ethan and his friends at Longmoor Community Primary School in Liverpool (north-west England), have been learning all about dinosaurs and life in the past this term, aided and supported by their Reception class teachers.  Whilst on a visit to the school to work with class 1 and class 2 to deliver a dinosaur and fossil themed workshop, our dinosaur expert was presented with a list of questions that Ethan had prepared.

Ethan’s Questions About Dinosaurs

Asking questions about dinosaurs.

Ethan presented Everything Dinosaur with some questions.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur/Longmoor Community Primary School

Questions About Dinosaurs Prepared at Home

Ethan’s teacher informed us that many of the children had thought of questions about prehistoric animals as they progressed through their term topic.  These questions had been pinned up onto the classroom display board and the eager fossil hunters in the Reception classes had set about researching the answers as they enthusiastically learned about dinosaurs.  Ethan had prepared his questions at home, he had set his own homework.  The classroom was filled with lots of examples of the children’s work, including super writing, “cotton bud skeletons” and dinosaur fact sheets that the children had made.  The classes had even built their own dinosaur museum!

Drawings of Dinosaurs Produced by Reception Class

Dinosaur drawings from Reception.

Class 2 produced some wonderful dinosaur drawings.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur/Longmoor Community Primary School

Ethan’s Questions

Ethan wanted to know did Tyrannosaurus rex eat meat?

T. rex was definitely a meat-eater (carnivore).  Palaeontologists can get a good idea about what an extinct animal ate by studying their fossil teeth.  Tyrannosaurus rex is regarded as a hypercarnivore, this means that it got at least 70% of its food from eating other animals.  Cats are also regarded as hypercarnivores, which means, if you have a pet cat, it probably loves eating meat as much as T. rex did!

Ethan asked does a Spinosaurus eat fish?

The jaws of Spinosaurus were very long and they were filled with up to two hundred, sharp and very pointed teeth.  These teeth would have been ideal for catching and holding slippery fish.  Palaeontologists know that when Spinosaurus roamed North Africa about 100 million years ago, there were lots of large lakes and rivers that teemed with fish.  Fossils of this large, dinosaur are usually found near ancient sources of water.  In 1975, part of a fossilised jaw of a Spinosaurus was found and it had a bone from a huge sawfish called Onchopristis (Onk-coe-pris-tis) stuck in it.  Palaeontologists also believe that Spinosaurus spent a lot of its time in water, so it is very likely that Spinosaurus did eat fish.  An animal that eats fish is called a piscivore (pie-see-vore).

A Picture of a Spinosaurus Going for a Swim

Spinosaurus swimming.

Spinosaurus – very much at home in the water.  An Onchopristis (sawfish) is trying to avoid being eaten.

Picture Credit: Davide Bonnadonna, Nizar Ibrahim, Simone Maganuco

Pelicans, otters and penguins are also piscivores, can you name any other animals that also eat fish?

Ethan and his friends in the Reception classes at Longmoor Community Primary have had great fun learning all about dinosaurs this term.

10 07, 2018

Bullyland Ammonite at the Museum

By | July 10th, 2018|Educational Activities, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products|0 Comments

Bullyland Ammonite on Display

We spotted an old friend whilst on a visit to the Oxford University Museum of Natural History (Oxford, England).  In a display case showing fossils of ammonites we noted that a Bullyland ammonite replica had been placed inside the display case to give visitors an idea of what an ammonite actually looked like.  Ammonite fossil shells may be relatively common, but it is surprising how few people understand that living inside the shell was an animal with tentacles, a creature related to today’s squid, cuttlefish and octopus.

 Spotted in a Museum Display Case – the Bullyland Ammonite Replica

We spotted a Bullyland ammonite model being used to help illustrate a display of ammonite fossils.

A Bullyland ammonite model is used to help illustrate a display of ammonite fossils.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

A Robust Ammonite Replica

The ammonite model from Bullyland is a robust replica of this iconic mollusc primarily known from the fossil record of the Mesozoic.  It is a super addition to any fossil fan’s collection.  Ideal for creative play, school or home study and for use in museums as the display case at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History testifies.  It is wonderful to see a Bullyland figure used in such a way, helping to educate and inform.

To view the Bullyland ammonite model and the rest of the figures in the Bullyland range available from Everything Dinosaur: Bullyland Models and Figures

The Bullyland Ammonite Figure as it Appears on the Everything Dinosaur Website

Bullyland ammonite model.

The Bullyland ammonite replica.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Helping Out at Many Museums we Suspect

Lots of museums have fossils of ammonites within their invertebrate fossil collections, we suspect that many curators and exhibition managers have taken advantage of this excellent replica and used it to help illustrate what these enigmatic cephalopods looked like.  After all, when our team members visit schools to conduct dinosaur and fossil themed workshops, we use this same Bullyland ammonite to explain to children which bit of an animal is likely to become a fossil and which bits are not likely to fossilise.

At a little under eighteen centimetres in length and with a shell diameter of around nine centimetres, this model was certainly at home amongst the Jurassic ammonite fossils on display.  Seeing the Bullyland ammonite replica being used in a museum got us thinking, are there any other examples of prehistoric animal models and figures being incorporated into a scientific exhibition or display?

It was a pleasure to peruse part of the extensive fossil collection at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History and to discover an old friend.

13 06, 2018

Sooty Owls Send in Questions

By | June 13th, 2018|Dinosaur Fans, Educational Activities, Main Page, Teaching|0 Comments

Reception Class (Sooty Owls) Send in Questions

Our congratulations to all the budding palaeontologists in Sooty Owls class (Foundation Stage 2), at Laithes Primary in south Yorkshire for compiling such a fascinating set of questions about dinosaurs.  The children in Foundation Stage at this Barnsley school have just started their summer term topic and they are very excited to be learning about dinosaurs and life in the past.

Questions Compiled by Sooty Owls for Everything Dinosaur

Foundation Stage children think up questions about dinosaurs.

The children in the Sooty Owls class have compiled a set of questions about dinosaurs.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur/Laithes Primary School

Why do Dinosaurs Roar?

Sophie asked why do dinosaurs roar?  This is a very difficult question to answer as we don’t have a living Tyrannosaurus rex, Stegosaurus or any other non-avian dinosaur to study.  Dinosaurs certainly do a lot of loud roaring in movies like “Jurassic Park”, but it is hard to work out what sort of sounds they made by just studying the fossilised bones alone.  Having said that, the tiny bones of the inner ear that have been found have given palaeontologists some ideas as to the sort of sounds that these animals might have heard.  Dinosaurs seem to have had good hearing so they probably did make some sounds, perhaps some of the smaller dinosaurs might have chirped like their near relatives the birds.  Other dinosaurs might have squawked, twittered or clucked, whilst very big dinosaurs may have made low frequency rumbling sounds, the vibrations of which, could have been detected by their feet (elephants are believed to be able to detect low frequency sounds in this way).

Some Very Big Dinosaurs Could have Picked Up Sounds Using their Feet

Spinophosaurus dinosaur life reconstruction.

Some very big dinosaurs could have picked up sounds using their feet.

When do Dinosaurs Sleep?

Emir wanted to know about dinosaur sleeping habits.  He asked when do dinosaurs sleep?  There are lots and lots of different types of dinosaurs and some of them were probably nocturnal (active at night), so these types of dinosaurs would have slept during the day.  Can the children in Sooty Owls class make a list of animals alive today that are nocturnal?  Most dinosaurs would have slept at night, just like we do, but all dinosaurs would have probably napped from time to time to.  Palaeontologists have found fossils of sleeping dinosaurs.  Some dinosaurs may have slept with one eye open so that they could stay safe.

A Sleeping Dinosaur (Mei long)

Mei long illustration.

Did dinosaurs sleep with one eye open?

The fossils of the dinosaur from China called Mei long, suggest that some dinosaurs slept like birds.  The name Mei long means “sleeping dragon”.

Were Dinosaurs Cold-blooded?

Tyler asked were dinosaurs cold-blooded?  Reptiles that are alive today, animals like snakes, lizards and crocodiles, have to rely on external sources of heat to help them keep warm and active.  Reptiles bask in the sun, using the heat from the sun to warm their bodies.  It is likely that most dinosaurs, which were probably much more active than snakes and crocodiles, were not cold-blooded, that is, they could have maintained a body temperature that was warmer than their surroundings.  Many dinosaurs had feathers and these feathers helped trap body heat to keep these dinosaurs from getting too cold.

Some dinosaurs lived in Antarctica and some dinosaurs lived in the Arctic Circle, so they would have been well-used to chilly conditions.  Mammals and birds are warm-blooded, birds are very closely related to dinosaurs.

Warm-blooded or Cold-blooded Dinosaurs?

warm-blooded or cold-blooded dinosaurs?

Where on the spectrum between endothermic and ectothermic are the Dinosauria?

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Would a T. rex Bite My Arm?

Rayen wanted to know about Tyrannosaurus rex and asked the following question – would T. rex bite my arm?  Tyrannosaurus rex was a meat-eating dinosaur, if it was around today, then a T. rex might indeed try to eat you.  T. rex was so big that he could have eaten everyone in Sooty Owls class for dinner and eaten the class teacher for dessert.  A fully-grown T. rex would have been capable of swallowing Rayen in one big bite!  It is reassuring to know that these types of dinosaurs, known as the non-avian dinosaurs are extinct!

Our thanks once again to the children in Sooty Owls class for compiling such a wonderful set of dinosaur themed questions.

10 06, 2018

Fallen Kingdom Posters Donated to School

By | June 10th, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal Drawings, Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Educational Activities, Main Page, Radio Reviews|0 Comments

Fallen Kingdom Posters Donated to School

Yesterday, team members at Everything Dinosaur were able to take a break from their busy schedule and visit the cinema to watch “Fallen Kingdom”, the latest film in the “Jurassic Park/Jurassic World” franchise.  We shall leave it to others to provide a review, but we were able to pass a couple of pleasant hours marvelling at how CGI and animatronics can bring about the resurrection of long extinct species.

Prior to the film starting we got talking to the friendly cinema staff.  They were most interested in our work and as a result, one of the cinema staff members went into their office and returned with two posters.  Free posters are being given out by certain cinema chains to help promote the movie, something that we were not aware of.  Our  posters feature a giant (somewhat oversized), Mosasaurus marine reptile feeding on a shark, a famous scene from the previous film “Jurassic World”.

The Posters that Team Members at Everything Dinosaur were Given

Mosasaurus poster.

The Mosasaurus poster from the film “Fallen Kingdom.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Donating the Poster to a School

We thanked the staff for their gift of the posters, these will go to a good home.  Everything Dinosaur has a school visit arranged for Wednesday of this week, delivering a series of dinosaur workshops to classes in support of their dinosaur and prehistoric animal themed term topic.  We shall take these two posters with us and donate them to the school, perhaps the poster will help the children to remember that an animal like a Mosasaur is not actually a dinosaur.  The poster might even inspire them to have a go at drawing their very own prehistoric animals.

When Everything Dinosaur team members visit a school, we tend to bring extra resources to support the school’s scheme of work and during our dinosaur workshops, the opportunity usually arises to challenge the children to undertake some extension activities in support of the curriculum.

We suspect that these two “Fallen Kingdom” posters will be gratefully received and we are sure that they will help the classes to create their own colourful and informative dinosaur and prehistoric animal displays.

30 05, 2018

Proavis – Ground Up or Tree Down?

By | May 30th, 2018|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal Drawings, Dinosaur Fans, Educational Activities, Main Page|0 Comments

Proavis – Ground Up or Tree Down?

Team members at Everything Dinosaur, took the opportunity whilst in London last week to pay a visit to the Grant’s Museum of Zoology, this hidden gem of a museum contains around 68,000 specimens and the densely packed cabinets house an absolute treasure trove of zoological wonders.  The Grant Museum of Zoology and Comparative Anatomy (to give this establishment its full title), is part of the University College London, it plays an important role in helping to teach students about anatomy.  It was founded by Robert Edmond Grant (1793-1874).

The Grant Museum of Zoology and Comparative Anatomy was established in 1827 to serve as a teaching collection at the newly founded University of London (later University College London).  The influential Grant taught the young Charles Darwin and he was the first Professor of Zoology and Comparative Anatomy in England.  A lack of teaching resources did not deter the enthusiastic scientist, he set about amassing an astonishing collection of specimens, diagrams, dissection materials and lecture notes, it is these that form the basis of the Museum today.

Saying Hello to “Proavis”

Tucked up high on a shelf, barely given a second glance by the casual visitor, is a rather strange animal.  This is “Proavis”, otherwise known as Pro-Aves.  It is not an anatomical specimen as such, it is not the preserved remains of a living animal, rather it a model that attempts to depict the ancestor of birds (Aves) and as such, it is extremely significant.

Saying Hello to Proavis – (Pro-Aves)

A Proavis (Pro-Aves) model.

The “Proavis” model at the Grant Museum of Zoology (London).

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The rather strange looking creature is a little worse for wear, after all, it is over a hundred years old.  Proavis consists of a wire armature, which has been covered in wax and real feathers.  It represents a theoretical missing link between feathered, Maniraptoran dinosaurs and the first birds, such as Archaeopteryx (A. lithographica).  During the late 19th Century, leading academics began to realise that birds may be closely related to dinosaurs.  Such ideas were fuelled by the publication of the seminal work “The Origin of Species” by one of Professor Grant’s former pupils (Charles Darwin) in 1859 and the excavation of the first, very nearly complete fossil of Archaeopteryx in 1861.

A Model of the Hypothetical “Missing Link” Between Reptiles and Birds

A model of the hypothetical transitional animal Proavis.

A model of the hypothetical animal Proavis.

Picture Credit: Grant Museum of Zoology

A Model of a “Missing Link”

The model is based on an illustration of a “missing link” a hypothetical transitional form between the reptiles and birds.  The term “Proavis” was first coined in 1906 by the English zoologist William Plane Pycraft.  Pycraft wrote a number of books on evolution and natural history including “The Story of Reptile Life”, that was published in 1905.  He believed that flight in early birds developed from ancestral forms that glided between trees, the “tree down” view.  However, other academics at the time proposed alternative theories for the evolution of the birds.  For example, the Hungarian polymath Franz Nopcsa proposed that flight developed first amongst fast-running terrestrial reptiles, which used their flapping arms to run faster.   The feather and wax model in the Museum originally came from Cambridge.  It was probably made by a student and it reflects the “ground up” view as championed by the likes of Nopcsa.

An Illustration of a Transitional Form Between Reptiles and Birds “Tree Down” Concept

Proavis - the origins of powered flight in ancestral birds.

From the “Origin of Birds” by Gerhard Heilmann.

Picture Credit: Gerhard Heilmann

This delicate and fragile model may look very different from today’s interpretations of the first birds and the Maniraptoran dinosaurs from which birds are descended, but it does represent an important milestone in academic thinking.  Models like “Proavis” were used to explore evolutionary theories  from more than a century ago.  As such, it does represent a “transitional form”, epitomising how ideas about Tetrapods have changed over time.

A More Modern Interpretation of a Reptile that was Ancestral to Aves (Dromaeosauridae)

Adasaurus mongoliensis illustrated.

An illustration of the dromaeosaurid Adasaurus (A. mongoliensis).

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

27 05, 2018

Maisy and her Dinosaur

By | May 27th, 2018|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal Drawings, Educational Activities, Main Page, Teaching|0 Comments

Maisy Designs a Dinosaur – Maisyosaurus

Our thanks to young Maisy and her classmates for sending lots of beautiful dinosaur drawings to our offices.  We had challenged the children (Year 2), to have a go at designing their very own prehistoric animals during a dinosaur workshop at their school.  We received an amazing array of very colourful drawings, with lots of lovely labelling and some fascinating explanations from the children as to why their dinosaur was so special.

Maisy Has Designed a Maisyosaurus

A Maisyosaurus drawn by Maisy.

A very colourful dinosaur design created by Maisy in Year 2.

Picture Credit: Maisy/Everything Dinosaur

Maisy labelled the various body parts of her dinosaur, explaining that it was an omnivore and that it had five toes to help it cut through things.  Certainly, having four fingers and a thumb makes using scissors very straight forward, I’m sure the dinosaur would have appreciated the comment.  Maisyosaurus also had spikes on its back, as Maisy explained, the spikes helped this dinosaur shake off a bug should one alight on it.  Perhaps it could it have shaken its big, bushy yellow tail in order to scare off flies and other insects.

Our thanks again to Maisy and the other Key Stage 1 pupils at her school for sending in the super dinosaur designs.

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