All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
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Everything Dinosaur team members working in schools, helping museums and other educational bodies. Our work with and in schools.

7 05, 2021

Nocturnal Dinosaurs Hunting in the Dark

By | May 7th, 2021|Adobe CS5, Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Key Stage 3/4, Main Page, Palaeontological articles, Photos/Pictures of Fossils|0 Comments

Scientists have proposed that the bizarre, chicken-sized alvarezsaurid Shuvuuia (S. deserti) had amazing eyesight and owl-like hearing, adaptations for a nocturnal hunter in its Late Cretaceous desert environment.

The Mongolian alvarezsaurid hunting at night
Shuvuuia deserti artist’s life reconstruction. Picture credit: Viktor Radermacher.

A Very Bizarre, Tiny Theropod

Named and described in 1998 from fossil material associated with the famous Djadochta Formation (Campanian faunal stage), Shuvuuia has been assigned to the Alvarezsauridae family of theropods. It may have been small (around 60 cm in length), but its skeleton shows a range of bizarre anatomical adaptations. It had long legs, a long tail, short but powerful forelimbs that ended in hands with greatly reduced, vestigial digits except for the thumb which was massive and had a large claw. The skull was very bird-like with disproportionately large orbits.

Photograph of fossilised Shuvuuia deserti skeleton.
Photograph of fossilised Shuvuuia deserti skeleton. Picture credit: Mick Ellison (American Museum of Natural History).

Writing in the academic journal “Science” a team of scientists led by Professor Jonah Choiniere (University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa), used sophisticated computerised tomography to examine the skull of Shuvuuia and to map this dinosaur’s sensory abilities, as part of a wider study into non-avian dinosaur sensory abilities.

Shuvuuia deserti fossil skull
Photograph of fossilised Shuvuuia deserti skull. Picture credit: Mick Ellison (American Museum of Natural History).

The international team of researchers used CT scanning and detailed measurements to collect data on the relative size of the eyes and inner ears of nearly 100 living bird and extinct dinosaur species. There are more than 10,000 species of bird (avian dinosaurs) alive today, but only a few have evolved sensory abilities that enable them to track and hunt prey at night. Owls are probably the best known, but not all owls are nocturnal. Kiwis hunt at night using their long, sensitive beaks to probe in the leaf litter for worms, whilst another bird endemic to New Zealand, the large, flightless Kakapo (a member of the parrots – Order Psittaciformes), is also nocturnal. Other birds active at night include the globally widespread black-capped night heron and the Stone-curlew (Burhinus oedicnemus) which is an occasional visitor to East Anglia in the UK.

To measure hearing ability, the team measured the length of the lagena, the organ that processes incoming sound information (known as the cochlea in mammals). The barn owl, which can hunt in complete darkness using hearing alone, has the proportionally longest lagena of any bird.

Barn owl skull CT scan showing lagena
Barn owl skull CT scan showing lagena. Picture credit: Jonah Choiniere/Wits University.

Assessing Vision

To examine vision, the team looked at the scleral ring, a series of bones surrounding the pupil, of each species. Like a camera lens, the larger the pupil can open, the more light can get in, enabling better vision at night. By measuring the diameter of the ring, the scientists could estimate how much light the eye can gather.

The researchers found that many carnivorous theropods such as large tyrannosaurs and the much smaller Dromaeosaurus had vision optimised for the daytime, and better-than-average hearing presumably to help them hunt. However, Shuvuuia, had both extraordinary hearing and night vision. The extremely large lagena of this species is almost identical in relative size to today’s barn owl, suggesting that Shuvuuia could have been a nocturnal hunter. With many predators sharing its Late Cretaceous desert environment, a night-time existence may have proved to be an effective strategy to avoid the attentions of much larger theropods.

Side by side comparison of the lagena of a Barn owl and Shuvuuia deserti
Side by side comparison of the lagena of a Barn owl (left) and Shuvuuia deserti (right). Picture credit: Jonah Choiniere/Wits University.

Commenting on the significance of this discovery, joint first author of the scientific paper, Dr James Neenan exclaimed:

“As I was digitally reconstructing the Shuvuuia skull, I couldn’t believe the lagena size. I called Professor Choiniere to have a look. We both thought it might be a mistake, so I processed the other ear – only then did we realise what a cool discovery we had on our hands!”

Extremely Large Eyes

The eyes of Shuvuuia were also remarkable. Skull measurements suggest that this little dinosaur had some of the proportionally largest pupils yet measured in birds or dinosaurs, suggesting that they could likely see very well at night.

Professor Jonah Choiniere holding a 3D Print of a Shuvuuia lagena
Professor Jonah Choiniere holding a 3D printed model of the lagena of Shuvuuia deserti. Picture credit: Jonah Choiniere/Wits University.

The Alvarezsauridae remain one of the most unusual of all the types of non-avian dinosaur known to science. Their place within the ecosystems of the Late Cretaceous remains controversial. Geographically widespread, a recently described alvarezsaurid from China Qiupanykus zhangi may have been a specialised ovivore (egg-eater), whilst other palaeontologists have postulated that these theropods used their strong forelimbs and large thumb claws to break into termite mounds. Perhaps, these small (most probably feathered), dinosaurs occupied a number of niches within Late Cretaceous ecosystems – including that of a nocturnal hunter of small vertebrates and insects.

Shuvuuia deserti artist's reconstruction.
Shuvuuia deserti artist’s reconstruction. Picture credit: Viktor Radermacher.

To read Everything Dinosaur’s blog article about Qiupanykus zhangi and the evidence behind the egg-eating theory: Did Alvarezsaurids Eat Eggs?

Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the assistance of a media release from the University of Witwatersrand in the compilation of this article.

The scientific paper: “Evolution of vision and hearing modalities in theropod dinosaurs” by Jonah N. Choiniere, James M. Neenan, Lars Schmitz, David P. Ford, Kimberley E. J. Chapelle, Amy M. Balanoff, Justin S. Sipla, Justin A. Georgi, Stig A. Walsh, Mark A. Norell, Xing Xu, James M. Clark and Roger B. J. Benson published in the journal Science.

11 04, 2021

“The Plesiosaur’s Neck”

By | April 11th, 2021|Adobe CS5, Book Reviews, Dinosaur Fans, Early Years Foundation Reception, Key Stage 1/2, Main Page, Teaching|0 Comments

“The Plesiosaur’s Neck” by Dr Adam S. Smith and Jonathan Emmett with illustrations by Adam Larkum.

Expert on the Plesiosauria, Dr Adam S. Smith (Curator of Natural Sciences at the Nottingham Natural History Museum at Wollaton Hall, Nottinghamshire), has teamed up with award-winning children’s author Jonathan Emmett to create a delightful tale explaining how some prehistoric marine reptiles developed long necks.

"The Plesiosaur's Neck"
“The Plesiosaur’s Neck” by Dr Adam S. Smith and Jonathan Emmett with illustrations by Adam Larkum.

Poppy is an Albertonectes, a plesiosaur named after the Canadian province of Alberta, where fossils of this giant with a seven-metre-long neck have been found, but what was that extremely long neck used for?

Poppy the Plesiosaur

Did Poppy use her enormous neck to help keep herself free of parasites? Or was she the equivalent of an electric eel generating electricity to shock any unsuspecting fish that happened to swim too close? In “The Plesiosaur’s Neck”, budding young palaeontologists get the opportunity to explore these entertaining hypotheses in a plesiosaur-themed prehistoric puzzle.

At more than eleven metres long, Albertonectes was a giant. The huge neck made up almost two-thirds of the animal’s entire body length and this delightful book examines some of the ideas that palaeontologists have proposed to explain this peculiar, plesiosaur body plan.

Checking over an exhibit.
Dr Adam Smith examining a cast of dinosaur vertebrae for an exhibition at Wollaton Hall. The talented Curator of Natural Sciences at the Nottingham Natural History Museum has helped to write a children’s book entitled “The Plesiosaur’s Neck”.

Prehistoric Puns

A mixture of playful, rhyming text and prehistoric puns guides the reader through the story. Members of the Mollusca have a prominent role to play with Alfie the ammonite and Bella the belemnite chiming in with cheeky comments whilst Dr Adam Smith ensures a smorgasbord of facts and information about life in the sea during the time of the dinosaurs. The book will entertain and inform children from 5 years and upwards in equal measure.

Beautifully illustrated by Adam Larkum, a graduate of the Edinburgh College of Art, “The Plesiosaur’s Neck” combines colourful characters with a cornucopia of fun facts. It is an entertaining exploration of a genuine palaeontological puzzle focused on a plesiosaur with an astonishing seventy-six bones in its neck.

Published in May 2021

“The Plesiosaurs Neck” ISBN number 9781912979424 is due to be published on the 6th of May (2021), by Uclan Publishing. Priced at £7.99 it can be purchased here: Purchase “The Plesiosaur’s Neck”.

3 04, 2021

Extra-terrestrial End-Cretaceous Impact Gave Rise to the Amazon Rainforest

By | April 3rd, 2021|Adobe CS5, Animal News Stories, Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Key Stage 3/4, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

The Amazon rainforest is an extremely important low latitude habitat with a huge diversity of animals, fungi and plant species. Described as the “lungs of the planet”, this tropical rainforest is at the very centre of many global conservation efforts. New research suggests that it was the extra-terrestrial impact event some 66 million years ago that led to the rise of this angiosperm dominated ecosystem.

Earth impact event.
Cataclysmic impact event that led to the extinction of the dinosaurs and lots of other animal life. New research suggests that the dinosaur-killing bolide also gave rise to the Amazon rainforest ecosystem. Picture credit: Don Davis (commissioned by NASA).

K/Pg Extinction Event

Approximately 66 million years ago a rock from space smashed into our planet. This triggered a sudden mass extinction event devastating around 75% of all the animal and plant terrestrial species, many of which subsequently became extinct. At this time the dinosaurs, their cousins the pterosaurs and the majority of marine reptiles died out.

The end of the non-avian dinosaurs.
An artist’s impression of the bolide about to impact with the Gulf of Mexico 66 million years ago. This devastating event wiped out a large number of animals and plants, very probably contributing to the extinction of many different families including all the non-avian dinosaurs. Picture credit: Chase Stone.

Analysis of Fossil Pollen and Study of Fossil Leaves

Writing in the journal “Science”, researchers from the Southern Methodist University (Texas) and the University of Wyoming report on the study of tens of thousands of fossil pollen specimens along with thousands of leaf fossils from Cretaceous-aged strata and deposits laid down after the K/Pg extinction event. The scientists, which include co-author Dr Ellen Currano (Department of Botany, University of Wyoming), found that the types of plant creating tropical forests were very different pre and post the extra-terrestrial impact. In the Late Cretaceous tropical forests were dominated by conifers and they were much more open than the dense, angiosperm forests that came about during the Palaeocene.

Cretaceous maniraptora.
Study suggests the floral composition of tropical rainforests changed dramatically after the extra-terrestrial impact event. During the Late Cretaceous tropical forests were dominated by conifers and forest canopies were less dense. Picture Credit: Danielle Dufault.

A Thick Forest Canopy Denying Access to Light

The scientists discovered that the fossil pollen and leaves show a marked transition in tropical forest flora. After the extra-terrestrial impact forests developed a thick canopy blocking much of the light from reaching the ground and angiosperms became more dominant.

A view of a modern tropical rainforest canopy.
An aerial view of the dense angiosperm dominated canopy of a modern rainforest. Picture credit: BBC.

How Did These Changes Come About?

As well as the documenting the turnover in flora and the transition from one tropical forest environment to a different type of rainforest in the Palaeocene, the researchers propose three possible explanations for this change:

  1. The absence of large megaherbivores, specifically dinosaurs allowed plant densities in forests to increase. The extinction of giant plant-eating dinosaurs such as the Ceratopsia, hadrosaurs, armoured dinosaurs and the titanosaurs allowed plants to grow at lower levels as they were not being trampled or consumed by herbivorous dinosaurs.
  2. Several types of fern and conifer became extinct during the K/Pg transition permitting new types of angiosperm (flowering plants) to evolve and exploit the vacated niches.
  3. Falling ash from the impact enriched soils throughout the tropics, provided an advantage to faster-growing angiosperms.
The floral composition of rainforests radically altered after the K/Pg extinction event.
The floral composition of rainforests radically altered after the K/Pg extinction event. Picture Credit: BBC.

The scientists conclude that the three hypotheses are not mutually exclusive and that a combination of factors could have led to the change in the flora as recorded in the fossil record.

A Significant Lesson for Today

Today, a rapidly changing climate, largely caused by the actions of our own species is having a dramatic effect on the world’s forests. The researchers note that the fossil record demonstrates that rainforests do not simply “bounce back”, after a catastrophe. They can take millions of years to recover and a very different type of ecosystem is likely to emerge.

The scientific paper: “The impactful origin of neotropical rainforests” by Bonnie F. Jacobs and Ellen D. Currano published in the journal Science.

19 02, 2021

A Happy Dinosaur Model

By | February 19th, 2021|Dinosaur Fans, Early Years Foundation Reception, Everything Dinosaur Products, General Teaching, Key Stage 1/2, Main Page, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products|0 Comments

Aaron the little T. rex dinosaur model, which is one of 48 small prehistoric animal figures currently manufactured by PNSO, is proving very popular amongst young dinosaur fans. We received an email from a mother whose daughter had just received her parcel sent by Everything Dinosaur containing some of these PNSO figures. Mum wrote to say how delighted her daughter was with her dinosaurs and she had stated that the little T. rex replica (Aaron) seemed to be a very a happy dinosaur as the model had a smile on its face.

PNSO Aaron the little Tyrannosaurus rex
A smiling T. rex dinosaur model. The PNSO Aaron the little T. rex. Is this dinosaur smiling?

Happy Dinosaurs

Ascribing emotions to a dinosaur is somewhat challenging. After all, such traits are not represented in the fossil record. However, those near relatives of the “tyrant lizard king”, the birds, do demonstrate a range of behaviours that indicate emotions and even empathy towards others.

People who keep birds as pets have stated that they can sense emotional states and energy levels and the birds change their behaviours accordingly. Parrots, pigeons and budgerigars can sulk, show jealously, excitement and affection towards their human owners. Bird intelligence has been studied for many years, Darwin considered avian intelligence and pondered on their emotional states.

PNSO Aaron the little Tyrannosaurus rex
The PNSO Aaron the little T. rex seems to be smiling. It is a very happy looking dinosaur model.

A Contented T. rex?

It is the configuration of the jaw line that perhaps gives Aaron the little T. rex dinosaur model an appearance of smiling. With his big eyes and the indication of feathers on the top of his head, his look might be interpreted as a happy, contented dinosaur.

As scientists learn more about the behaviours and cognitive abilities of extant animals in combination with rare fossils that shine a light on nesting/brooding, herd behaviour and intra-specific interactions, then we are going to see more palaeo-artists producing artwork that develops these themes.

For the young girl and her dinosaur collection, if she thinks that Aaron the little T. rex is a very happy dinosaur then this is fine by us. Aaron and the other PNSO models will help her to develop through play as she uses her imagination and creativity.

To view Everything Dinosaur’s range of PNSO prehistoric animal models including some “happy” dinosaurs: PNSO Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animals.

13 02, 2021

Providing Data on Baryonyx

By | February 13th, 2021|Dinosaur Fans, Educational Activities, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products, Teaching|0 Comments

Producing a Display Board About Baryonyx

Our project work continues despite the lockdown (COVID-19).  For example, in anticipation of outdoor events and exhibitions in the UK starting up again in the summer of 2021 an events company has requested the assistance of Everything Dinosaur team members to help them provide suitable dinosaur-themed data for a series of prehistoric animal display boards being prepared for an exhibition.

One of the theropods we have been asked to help with is Baryonyx (B. walkeri), the first fossils of which were brought to the attention of science back in 1983.  This dinosaur was formally described in 1986 (Charig and Milner).

A Model of the Theropod Dinosaur Baryonyx (B. walkeri)

CollectA Baryonyx dinosaur model.

The CollectA Deluxe 1:40 scale Baryonyx dinosaur model, photographed outside.  A recently introduced model of Baryonyx with a human figure providing an approximate scale.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Information for the Display Board

Name: Baryonyx (B. walkeri).
Means: Heavy Claw.
Period: Early Cretaceous, about 125 million years ago.
Where have Baryonyx fossils been found: England, Spain, (Europe).

In 1983, amateur fossil hunter, William Walker discovered parts of a giant claw, a claw bone and a tail bone whilst exploring a clay pit in Ockley, Surrey.  Palaeontologists from the British Museum (now known as the Natural History Museum) in London were despatched to investigate and this led to the recovery of approximately 70% of the skeleton of a new type of theropod dinosaur.  The huge claw, after which Baryonyx is named, measures over 30 cm along its curve.  It is possible that Baryonyx used this claw to hook fish out of water, while hunting on riverbanks.  The fossils found in the Surrey clay pit came from a dinosaur that was not fully grown.  Baryonyx could have measured up to 9.5 metres long, 2.5 metres high at the hips and probably weighed over 2 tonnes.

Dinosaurs Associated with the Wealden Group

A reconstruction of the Isle of Wight in the Lower Cretaceous

The prehistoric animals associated with the Wealden Group (Isle of Wight).  A Baryonyx feasts on the carcase of an Iguanodon, whilst a herd of sauropods (Pelorosaurus) passes by on the right.  The Baryonyx may not have too long to feed as a Neovenator approaches from the left.

Picture Credit: John Sibbick

9 02, 2021

Stegosaurus Information Panel

By | February 9th, 2021|Dinosaur Fans, Educational Activities, Main Page, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products, Teaching|0 Comments

Stegosaurus Information Panel

As part of our on-going work with an events management company Everything Dinosaur team members have been asked to prepare an information panel on Stegosaurus for an exhibition.  Despite being one of the most popular of all the dinosaurs and a “terrible lizard” that the public find very easy to recognise, this genus has proved to be problematical for palaeontologists and ever since the first Stegosaurus was scientifically described back in 1877 by the American palaeontologist Othniel Charles Marsh, the stegosaur family have gone through several revisions.

The Bullyland Stegosaurus Dinosaur Model – Stegosaurus is One of the Most Famous of All the Dinosaurs

Bullyland Stegosaurus dinosaur model.

The Bullyland Stegosaurus dinosaur model.  An iconic replica of a famous dinosaur that because of its plates and spiky tail is easy to identify for members of the public.  However, its taxonomic history has been far from straight forward.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

In surveys conducted by Everything Dinosaur, to determine favourite prehistoric animals, Stegosaurus has been placed as high as three, with only Tyrannosaurus rex and Triceratops beating it in terms of popularity.  Putting together a concise yet informative display panel for Stegosaurus represented quite a challenge.

The Stegosaurus Information Panel

Name: Stegosaurus

Means: Roof Lizard

Period: Late Jurassic, about 155-150 million years ago

Where have Stegosaurus Fossils been Found? Colorado, Utah and Wyoming in the USA and Portugal (Europe)

Stegosaurus was a slow-moving herbivorous quadruped and is perhaps one of the easiest dinosaurs to recognise thanks to its plates and tail spikes.  However, ever since the first fossils of this iconic dinosaur were found in 1877 Stegosaurus has caused much controversy.  For example, the famous American palaeontologist Othniel Charles Marsh, the first scientist to describe Stegosaurus, thought that the plates resembled the large flat bones that formed the shells of some types of prehistoric sea turtle.  Marsh suggested that Stegosaurus was an aquatic animal.  It was not until 1891, after the discovery of several more specimens that the first skeletal reconstruction of Stegosaurus was completed.  The hind limbs are much longer than the front limbs and it has been suggested that Stegosaurus could have reared up so it could feed on the branches of trees.

“Sophie” the Stegosaurus a Star Attraction at the London Natural History Museum

Sophie the Stegosaurus at the London Natural History Museum

Sophie the Stegosaurus (S. stenops), a star exhibit at the London Natural History Museum.  The most complete Stegosaurus specimen known to science.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Scientists are still debating what the bony plates were used for and how exactly they were arranged along the back.  The plates are not attached to the spine but held in place with cartilage, tendons and muscles.  It is thought that the plates were arranged in two alternating rows running down the back with the largest plates (up to 1 metre high), located over the hips.  In this position the plates would have provided very little protection, it seems more likely that they played a role in species recognition or display behaviour.  The bony plates may also have helped maintain body temperature by acting as heat regulators.  The largest species measured around 9 metres in length and weighed more than 3 tonnes.  Stegosaurus also had two pairs of spikes on the end of its tail. These were probably defensive weapons.

To read an article about the research into the most complete Stegosaurus (S. stenops) specimen known to science: “Sophie” the Stegosaurus at 1.6 tonnes.

6 02, 2021

Preparing a Pteranodon Information Panel

By | February 6th, 2021|Dinosaur Fans, Educational Activities, Everything Dinosaur News and Updates, Main Page, Teaching|0 Comments

Preparing a Pteranodon Information Panel

As part of their on-going work with an events management company, Everything Dinosaur team members have been asked to prepare an information panel on the famous pterosaur genus Pteranodon.  The information provided will be used for a display board that accompanies a life-size Pteranodon longiceps exhibit.  The Pteranodon panel is one of a series of display boards being created by Everything Dinosaur, all the other boards that staff members have been asked to create relate to dinosaurs.

A Model of the Pterosaur Pteranodon longiceps

JurassicCollectables reviews the Wild Safari Prehistoric World Pteranodon figure.

Perhaps the most famous flying reptile of all!  A model of the flying reptile known as Pteranodon (P. longiceps).  Everything Dinosaur team members have been asked to create an information board to accompany a life-size museum display of this Late Cretaceous pterosaur.

Picture Credit: JurassicCollectables

The Pteranodon Information Panel

Pteranodon might be one of the best-known and extensively studied of all the Pterosauria.  Around 1,200 fossil specimens are known, ironically most are fragmentary and squashed as flat as a pancake.

Name: Pteranodon (Pteranodon longiceps).

Means: Winged and Toothless.

Period: Late Cretaceous, 85 Million Years Ago (approximately).

Where are the majority of Pteranodon Fossils Found?  They are found in Kansas, South Dakota and Wyoming (USA).

Pteranodon is a pterosaur, a type of extinct flying reptile and not a dinosaur!  Pterosaurs were a very unusual group of reptiles that lived alongside the dinosaurs.  They were the earliest back-boned animals to evolve powered flight and take to the sky.  There are many species known (more than 120).  The smallest had a wingspan of around 25 centimetres, whereas the largest had a wingspan of about 10 – 11 metres!  They became extinct at the end of the Cretaceous, around 66 million years ago.  Pteranodon is perhaps the most famous pterosaur; the largest specimens suggest a wingspan of around 7 metres.  Over a thousand specimens, from almost complete skeletons to fragmentary bones, have been found.  Pteranodon fossils are associated with strata laid down in marine environments and it is thought that these flying reptiles fed on small fish.

Many Prehistoric Scenes Feature the Iconic Pterosaur Pteranodon

The Western Interior Seaway (Late Cretaceous)

Dramatic scene from the Western Interior Seaway painted by Burian.  Pteranodon fossils are associated with marine deposits and this explains why they are featured in prehistoric seascapes, especially those depicting the Pierre Seaway and the Western Interior Seaway.

Picture Credit: Zdeněk Burian

4 02, 2021

Preparing Information Panels for a Dinosaur Exhibition

By | February 4th, 2021|Dinosaur Fans, Educational Activities, Main Page, Photos/Pictures of Fossils, Teaching|0 Comments

Preparing Information Panels for a Dinosaur Exhibition

Everything Dinosaur team members have been asked by an events company to check some information panels about dinosaurs in preparation for a series of outdoor exhibitions planned for the UK in the summer of 2021.  Events companies are making plans to commence exhibitions and other public activities as the lockdown restrictions are likely to come to an end later on this year (hopefully).

One of the dinosaurs featured is Diplodocus.  Everything Dinosaur team members have been busy checking and amending where necessary the information panel that will accompany an exhibit featuring this famous sauropod.  It is ironic that this is one of the first dinosaurs that we work on as we look forward to the end of lockdown.  Back in March 2020 staff were working with the Natural History Museum’s “Dippy” the Diplodocus touring exhibit, but the start of the first lockdown in the third week of that March led to all our outreach work being suspended.

A Size Comparison!  Diplodocus Compared to some Animals Alive Today

How big was Diplodocus?

Diplodocus compared to animals alive today.  This super-sized sauropod will be part of a set of prehistoric animals to be used by an exhibitions company.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

The Information Panel

Name: Diplodocus
Means: Double Beam
Period: Late Jurassic, 154-150 Million Years Ago
Where have fossils been found: Colorado, Montana, Utah and Wyoming (USA)

Diplodocus is one of the longest dinosaurs to have ever lived.  It is also one of the best-known sauropods, as several skeletons have been discovered!  It is, at present, the longest dinosaur known from a practically complete skeleton.  Some dinosaurs were certainly larger, but they are known from less complete skeletons.  The largest specimen known is estimated to have been around 26 metres in length, about as long as three double decker buses and around 5 metres tall, from the toe to the hip.  Diplodocus weighed around approximately 10 to 15 tonnes!

The very first Diplodocus bones were discovered in a quarry in Colorado, USA, in 1877.  Diplodocus was herbivorous and possessed forward-pointing, long, peg-like teeth that were positioned at the front of its mouth; they were perfect branch-strippers.  Scientists believe that Diplodocus fed by closing its mouth around plant stems and stripping the leaves by pulling back its head – like a rake.

As our team members pointed out to the events company children are so well-informed and knowledgeable about dinosaurs, that whatever gets put on the information panel is likely to be challenged by them.  However, the panels we have helped to create we help to inform and to educate.

A Very Impressive Sauropod Femur (Diplodocid)

Professor Phil Manning and the diplodocid femur.

Professor Phil Manning (The University of Manchester) poses next to a diplodocid femur.  Huge sauropod fossils are still being found in the same area of the United States where the first Diplodocus fossils were discovered.

Picture Credit: The University of Manchester

10 01, 2021

Remember School Visits – Tips and Advice

By | January 10th, 2021|Main Page, Teaching|0 Comments

Remember School Visits – Tips and Advice

Do you remember school visits?  With most of the schools only accommodating children of key workers or other pupils with exemptions under the current COVID-19 regulations, Everything Dinosaur’s team members have stopped all school visits and outreach work.  However, we continue to receive emails asking us about various aspects of our work in schools.

Here is a general article that explains how a teaching team can get the most out of a school visitor who is there to deliver activities in support of a term topic:

Tips and Advice About Getting the Most from a School Visit

Tips and advice about school visits.

Tips and advice about school visits.  Everything Dinosaur helps out.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Advice and Tips – Frequently Asked Questions

Whether a museum, college, school or youth club here are a list of tips and helpful suggestions compiled by the Homo sapiens at Everything Dinosaur who are tasked with undertaking dinosaur themed workshops and other teaching activities.  After all, having worked with tens of thousands of people, our dinosaur experts/teachers know a thing or two about providing support for other educationalists.

  • When working in a school or college it is often best to base the teaching work in a single classroom.  It is often easier to bring the pupils to the presenter than having to move the presenter and all their equipment/resources from classroom to classroom.
  • A few days prior to every school visit the designated teacher/expert should email over a proposed, bespoke lesson plan, a suggested itinerary and further information to help the school to maximise the teaching time.  If they don’t, drop the visitor an email and chase them up.
  • The individually tailored lesson plans should indicate which sections of the national curriculum the session is related to.  Ask them to confirm how what they intend to deliver fits into the national curriculum learning objectives and intended outcomes.
  • If a parking space could be allocated close to where the teaching work is to be carried out that would be greatly appreciated and help with the unloading and loading of the vehicle.
  • Encourage the teaching team to ask questions, and feel free to pick brains with regards to follow up and extension activities.  The visitor should be able to suggest plenty of extensions and ways in which to reinforce learning.
  • A camera, Ipad, Smartphone to take pictures/video is recommended (if the school privacy and photographic policies allow).  Take lots and lots of pictures and don’t worry about making notes, use the pictures/video to test the understanding of the children.
  • When working with older students such as Key Stage 3 and beyond a useful and free resource worth exploring is the huge Everything Dinosaur web log.  It is packed with information on the latest fossil finds, explanations of scientific terms, updates on genetic research, news stories and features regarding palaeontology and other Earth sciences visit: Everything Dinosaur Web Log and review the General Teaching, EYFS and Key Stage Categories.

Classrooms May Be Empty But Everything Dinosaur Still Helping Out

Empty Classrooms But Everything Dinosaur Still Providing Free Advice and Assistance

A well appointed laboratory in a school.

Classrooms might be deserted at the moment, but Everything Dinosaur is still providing free advice and assistance to teachers.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

School visits may not be possible at the moment due to COVID-19, but Everything Dinosaur team members are still providing free advice and assistance. Everything Dinosaur helping to support teachers and teaching assistants.

18 12, 2020

Interactive “I-Book” Provides Readers with Unprecedented Access to Archaeological Sites

By | December 18th, 2020|Book Reviews, Educational Activities, Main Page, Photos, Teaching|0 Comments

Interactive “I-Book” Provides Readers with Unprecedented Access to Archaeological Sites

An interactive ‘”I-Book” which allows users to virtually walk around otherwise inaccessible historical sites has been shortlisted as a finalist in a major award.  Entitled “The Shetland in the Iron Age”, this  Interactive “I-Book” gives anyone a VIP pass to three distant archaeological sites and has been highly commended in an industry awards ceremony.

The concept of providing virtual access to sites of great historical significance was developed by Archaeological and Forensic Sciences PhD student Li Sou from the University of Bradford.  The “I-Book” offers a no-holds barred tour of three “broch”, Iron Age drystone hollow-walled structures found in the Shetland Islands, Scotland.  The technology is so simple to use, that anyone aged nine or over can use the “I-Book” and visit relatively remote and inaccessible sites.

University of Bradford Student Li Sou Demonstrates the “I-Book”

Archaeological and Forensic Sciences PhD student Li Sou from the University of Bradford.

Archaeological and Forensic Sciences PhD student Li Sou from the University of Bradford demonstrates the new “I-Book”.

Picture Credit: University of Bradford

The “I-Book” provides 360° virtual maps of the interiors that users can explore.  Virtual visitors can wander around their inner workings, exploring different buildings, accessing staircases and corridors, as though they were there in the Shetlands themselves.

Providing Lots of Associated Information and Data

The cleverly designed “I-Book” includes clickable information hotspots that link to a wealth of associated data, including historic photographs and videos from experts in the field.  The concept was shortlisted in the Association for Learning Technologists Awards and the “I-Book” was highly commended.  The judges describing it as an “incredibly varied, engaging and accessible digital educational resource.”

Historic Environment Scotland have been developing this technology for use at other historic properties in their care and these will launch in 2021, both on site and freely downloadable online.

An Overhead Photograph of a Broch

An overhead photograph of a broch on the Isle of Shetland.

An aerial shot of a broch.

Picture Credit: University of Bradford

The judging panel stated that the project:

“Has excelled in developing a range of versatile digital assets to aid in learning about complicated archaeological and academic themes.”

Commenting after the prestigious award ceremony, student Li Sou exclaimed:

“This is the culmination of a six-month project and brochs are complicated archaeological sites to understand and are not physically accessible to everyone.  The I-Book format is not very well known in the heritage sector, so the project was an excellent opportunity to design a resource that gives readers a chance to explore the sites as if they were there in real life, with integrated accessibility features to make them accessible to all.”

A Useful Resource in the Midst of a Global Pandemic

The use of technology such as this has significant implications for the support of archaeology and general education in the midst of a global pandemic.  The emergence and spread of COVID-19 has curtailed travel and restricted the opening times for heritage monuments.  “I-Books” such as this permit sites that might be closed to the public and otherwise difficult to reach due to the need to restrict travel or to self-isolate, to still be accessible to students, archaeologists and the general public.

“I-Book” Development Team Photo (in an Age of Social Distancing)

Team photo of all those involved in the project

Team photo of all those involved in the “I-Book” project.

Picture Credit: University of Bradford

The interactive “I-Book”  entitled “The Shetland in the Iron Age” was developed in collaboration with the Shetland Amenity Trust with a working group from Historic Environment Scotland, along with the co-operation and assistance of the Visualising Heritage group within the School of Archaeological and Forensic Sciences, University of Bradford.

Implications for Palaeontology Departments

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur commented that this type of technology has applications within the Earth sciences.  For example, interactive “I-Books” could be provided to help students and researchers virtually visit remote dig sites and fossil quarries.  It could also be used in other research areas such as allowing observations of fossil collections and other material that would otherwise be very difficult to access.

Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the assistance of a media release from the University of Bradford in the compilation of this article.

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