All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
30 06, 2015

Staff Make Dinosaur Day Extra Special

By |2023-03-31T21:59:07+01:00June 30th, 2015|Educational Activities, Main Page, Teaching|0 Comments

Children Enjoy a Dinosaur Day at Broadoak Primary School

The teaching team at Broadoak  Primary School in Ashton-under-Lyne went that “extra mile” when it came to organising a memorable dinosaur day for the children at Key Stage 2.  They not only booked Everything Dinosaur to conduct a series of dinosaur and fossil themed workshops with Year 3 through to Year 6, but they converted the gazebo in the spacious school playground into a “crime scene” containing a dinosaur’s nest.

Dinosaur “Crime Scene”

It was great to see such an imaginative use of the facilities at the school and with a redevelopment and extension programme being planned for this larger than average primary school, we suspect that the new premises and facilities will be used to continue the inspiration teaching.

Staff at Broadoak Primary Convert the Gazebo into a Dinosaur Nest “Crime Scene”

Creative use of school resources.

Creative use of school resources.

Picture credit: Everything Dinosaur

Dinosaur Day

Our dinosaur expert did his best to field all the questions from the children.  The experiments we conducted and the information we imparted went down very well with the pupils, who were all eager to learn more about prehistoric animals as well as demonstrating what they already knew by telling Everything Dinosaur about their favourite “terrible lizards”.

The Dinosaur Nest in the School Gazebo

A dinosaur discovery at a school.

A dinosaur discovery at a school.

Picture credit: Everything Dinosaur

To learn more about Everything Dinosaur’s product range: Visit Everything Dinosaur’s Website.

The dinosaur workshops that we conducted went down very well with the teaching team as well, here is an example of some of the feedback we received:

“5 out of 5 stars”

“Very child friendly, loved the fact that everything was put into context for the children.”

“Lots of child participation and positive reinforcement.”

“Worked fantastically well with the children and kept them all engaged and wanting to learn more, the children enjoyed exploring all the artefacts and fossils.”

“All the staff involved would highly recommend this workshop.”

To read additional testimonials about Everything Dinosaur: Everything Dinosaur – Testimonials.

The teaching team at Broadoak Primary supported by the office staff and the site supervisors really went out of their way to make the dinosaur day extra special for the children.  Well done to everybody involved.

29 06, 2015

Important Dinosaur Tracks Vandalised

By |2024-05-05T14:23:02+01:00June 29th, 2015|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Dinosaur Tracks Vandalised – Plaster Casts Attempted

We have picked up a number of reports from the United States that several dinosaur tracks have been vandalised at the Manti-La Sal National Forest, a national park managed by the United States Forestry Service.  Manti-La Sal National Forest straddles the State border between Utah and Colorado and a number of important vertebrate fossils including dinosaur bones and tracks are located within the 1.4 million acre park.  It is illegal to collect or make duplicates of any vertebrate fossils, including trace fossils from lands managed by the U.S. Forestry Service without the correct permits.

Permits are normally only issued to qualified palaeontologists and those parties involved in federally approved research.

Dinosaur Tracks Vandalised

A spokesperson from the Manti-La Sal National Forest, explained that three-toed dinosaur tracks in the Moab (Utah), area had been vandalised and a number of suspects identified.  As we at Everything Dinosaur understand the situation, no arrests have been made yet.

This part of Utah is famous for its amazing dinosaur fossils.  Sadly, Everything Dinosaur team members have reported on numerous occasions deliberate damage being caused to fossil sites, or the theft of dinosaur bones and tracks.  With private collectors prepared to pay large sums of money for dinosaur fossils, there is a big black market in illegally acquired artefacts.  Last year we reported on the theft of a dinosaur footprint from a Bureau of Land Management managed site, not too far away from this incident.

A local man (Jared Ehlers) was arrested and sentenced to six months house arrest, fined and given an additional one year probation sentence.  Mr Ehlers claimed he had stolen the footprint as he wanted to make a coffee table out of it.  The stolen footprint has not been recovered.

Attempts to Make Casts

In this latest incident, although no footprints were actually taken, the plaster poured into the footprint impressions will have caused some damage to these important trace fossils.   The dinosaur tracks, probably made by a large, carnivore, have been preserved in hyporelief (depressions), such tracks are relatively rare and the Utah specimens are of exceptional quality, the consistency of the sediment at the time the dinosaur walked on it was just right to permit an accurate footprint impression to be created.

Important Trace Fossils

Palaeontologists can use these footprints to explore theropod locomotion by calculating the way the foot moves as it contacts and leaves the sediment surface.  Although the plaster can be carefully removed and the footprints cleaned, subtle details related to the dinosaur’s locomotion will be probably obliterated.

Everything Dinosaur would like to take this opportunity to advise readers that no collection permits for any type of fossil (plants, invertebrates, vertebrates or trace fossils), are issued by the U.S. Forestry Service  for commercial purposes.  The selling, trading or bartering of any fossil material from National Forest System Lands is strictly prohibited.

For dinosaur models and prehistoric animal figures: Dinosaur Figures and Prehistoric Animal Models.

28 06, 2015

The “Grandfather” of All Tortoises and Turtles

By |2023-03-31T21:43:31+01:00June 28th, 2015|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page, Palaeontological articles|0 Comments

German Fossil Discovery Could be Transitional Fossil

How did the turtle get its shell?  It sounds like the opening line from one of Aesop’s fables but in reality this question has been vexing palaeontologists for the best part of two hundred years.  Thanks to some remarkable fossil discoveries from southern Germany (Baden-Württemberg) and the work of scientists from the Natural History Museum of Stuttgart and the Smithsonian Institute (National Museum of Natural History, Washington D.C.), we might be one step closer to solving this puzzle.

German Fossil Find

About thirty-five miles north-east of the city of Stuttgart, lies the picturesque town of Vellberg, there are a large number of quarries extracting Triassic-aged limestone and other materials in this locality, as in this part of the Germany, there are extensive outcrops of Lower Keuper sedimentary material.

In a band of claystone, which represents strata from the Erfurt Formation, (Lower Keuper stratigraphic unit), scientists have excavated eighteen specimens of a small reptile, the fossils of which, could represent a transitional fossil between basal Chelonians (turtles and tortoises) and the types of turtles and tortoises we see today.

Middle Triassic Rocks

The claystone represents sediments deposited at the bottom of a large lake that existed some 240 million years ago in the Middle Triassic (Ladinian faunal stage).  Although the claystone layer is relatively thin, no more than fifteen centimetres deep at its thickest part, palaeontologists have been exploring these rocks since 1985 as the fossils they provide give a unique insight into the fauna of this part of the world a few million years after the End Permian extinction event, at around the time of the very first dinosaurs.

Dr Rainer Schoch at the Excavation Site (Erfurt Formation)

Dr. Rainer Schoch working at the claystone bed.

Dr Rainer Schoch working at the claystone bed.

Picture credit: Dr Rainer Schoch/Natural History Museum of Stuttgart

Pappochelys rosinae

The reptile has been named Pappochelys rosinae, the genus name translates from the Greek meaning “grandfather turtle”, the species name honours Isabell Rosin of the Natural History Museum of Stuttgart as she was responsible for preparing the fossil specimens for study.  This little reptile measured around twenty centimetres in length, the long tail made up about fifty percent of the total body length.

Anatomical features indicate that this reptile is a transitional animal from the more primitive and older Eunotosaurus known from strata dating from approximately 260 million years ago and the more recent Odontochelys, whose fossils come from Chinese rocks and date from about 220 million years ago.


Pappochelys could be an intermediary form in between Eunotosaurus and Odontochelys.  It helps to fill the forty million year gap in Chelonian fossils.  Whilst Odontochelys, lacked the full turtle shell (carapace) it did possess a hard, flat underbelly (plastron).  P. rosinae lacks a plastron, but the gastralia (belly ribs) on its underside are broader and closer to fusing than in Eunotosaurus.

To read about the discovery of Eunotosaurus: An Insight into Chelonian Evolution.

Associated Post Cranial Material of Pappochelys rosinae

Post cranial fossil material including the thickened trunk ribs.

Post cranial fossil material including the thickened trunk ribs.

Picture credit: Natural History Museum of Stuttgart

Hans-Dieter Sues, (Curator of Vertebrate Palaeontology, at the National Museum of Natural History, Washington D.C.) explained:

“In the case of Pappochelys, we see that its belly was protected by an array of rod-like bones, some of which are already fused to each other.  Such a stage in the evolution of the turtle shell has long been predicted by embryological research on present-day turtles but never observed in fossils – until now.”

An Illustration of Pappochelys and Outline Plan of Key Bones

Illustration and outline plan of bones - ribs (yellow), gastralia (red), shoulder girdle (green), pelvis (brown), femur and vertebrae (mustard)

Illustration and outline plan of bones – ribs (mustard), gastralia (red), shoulder girdle (green), pelvis (brown), femur and vertebrae (yellow)

Picture credit: Natural History Museum of Stuttgart

Thickened Ribs

The diagram shows the thickened trunk ribs of this ancient reptile and the lacustrine (lake) deposit might provide a clue as to why such creatures eventually evolved a hard shell.  The bones are thickened and more dense, if this animal was semi-aquatic, then the heavier bones would help to provide ballast and counter the animal’s natural buoyancy in water.

The more robust, heavier bones might have helped this reptile to dive deeper and to stay underwater for longer.  The pelvis and the shoulder girdle are very similar to those found in Odontochelys, which is regarded by many scientists as the earliest true turtle.

A Dorsal view of the Bauplan Showing Modified Ribs and Gastralia

Expanded ribs (yellow) gastralia (red)

Expanded ribs (mustard) gastralia (red)

Picture credit: Natural History Museum of Stuttgart

The picture above shows a skeletal reconstruction of Pappochelys.  The ribs (mustard) and the gastralia (red).

Evolution of Turtles

Dr Sues outlined the anatomical developments leading to modern-day turtles that could be traced from the fragmentary fossils found at Vellberg.  The paper on these specimens, which Dr Sues co-authored has just been published in “Nature”.

He stated:

“It [Pappochelys] has real beginnings of the belly shell developing, little rib-like structures beginning to fuse together into larger plates and then ultimately making up the belly shell [plastron].”

Where do the Tortoises and Turtles Fit in with Other Reptile Groups?

The origins of the Chelonia (turtles and tortoises) remain controversial.  More modern Chelonia, such as those genera still around today do not have teeth.  Instead, they have a beak.  Pappochelys had teeth, (some cranial material including jawbones and teeth have been found) and it is known that Odontochelys also had teeth (the genus name translates as “toothed turtle with half a shell”).  However, scientists have long argued where in the Order Reptilia the Chelonia actually sit.

They are regarded as a very ancient group of reptiles.  It had been thought that turtles and tortoises were descended from ancient Parareptiles, but the skull bones of Pappochelys reveal an affinity to the diapsid reptiles, a wide-ranging group that includes lizards, snakes, crocodiles as well as extinct marine reptiles and the Dinosauria.

Implictions for Reptile Taxonomy

It had been thought that tortoises and turtles were anapsids, lacking temporal fenestrae (holes behind the eye socket in the skull, but the Pappochelys cranial material shows a pair of openings in the skull behind each eye socket.  This suggests that the Chelonia are not descended from parareptiles but have phylogenetic affinities to the diapsids.  This places them in the same clade as lizards and snakes.

27 06, 2015

Year 1 Become “Dinosaur Detectives”

By |2023-03-31T21:35:23+01:00June 27th, 2015|General Teaching, Key Stage 1/2|Comments Off on Year 1 Become “Dinosaur Detectives”

An Afternoon of “Dinosaur Detectives” with Year 1

Children in Year 1 at St Joseph’s RC Primary in Manchester had a busy Wednesday afternoon as they had a visit from Everything Dinosaur to conduct a dinosaur themed workshop at their school.  This is the first time that Year 1 have studied prehistoric animals as a term topic, but after Everything Dinosaur’s work with Reception earlier in the year, the company was invited back by the Senior Leadership Team to help enthuse and inspire the budding young palaeontologists in class one.

One of the aims of the afternoon of activities was to help the children with their writing and to encourage them to use adjectives.  In the morning, prior to our visit, the children had been busy labelling drawings of Triceratops and the fearsome T. rex.  There were some fine examples of transcription and composition on display.

A Colourful Dinosaur Display

A colourful dinosaur display. "Dinosaur Detectives" term topic.

A colourful dinosaur themed display.

Picture credit: Everything Dinosaur

Dinosaurs Help to Encourage Children with Adjectives

Dinosaurs on Display

Children gain confidence using adjectives.

Picture credit: Everything Dinosaur

Following our visit, we discussed lots of extension ideas and activities with the teacher.  We then email over additional, supporting resources to assist the teaching team with this topic.

To contact Everything Dinosaur requesting more information about our wide product range: Get in Touch with Everything Dinosaur.

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur stated that the team members had enjoyed working with the children and that they had been surprised about their knowledge about dinosaurs and prehistoric animals.

The spokesperson added:

“It was fun working with all the enthusiastic children and answering the questions. Some children even brought in models of dinosaurs to show us.”

To view the range of dinosaur models available from Everything Dinosaur: Dinosaur Models.

27 06, 2015

Year 1 Children Become “Dinosaur Detectives”

By |2023-03-31T21:31:43+01:00June 27th, 2015|Educational Activities, Main Page, Teaching|0 Comments

Dinosaur Detectives at St Joseph’s RC Primary

Year 1 at St Joseph’s RC Primary had the opportunity to become “dinosaur detectives” on Wednesday afternoon as a team member from Everything Dinosaur joined their class to conduct a dinosaur workshop in their school.  The afternoon session was split into two parts.  Firstly, the children joined our dinosaur expert in the hall for a tactile exploration of fossils and all things dinosaur.  One of the key learning objectives as outlined by Miss Stanton (class teacher), was to encourage the children with their writing and vocabulary development.

The Size and Scale of Dinosaurs

The focus was on thinking of adjectives to help describe the different dinosaurs and to express just how big some of them were.  The lesson plan we had prepared dove-tailed nicely into the scheme of work the children had been undertaking in the morning.  There were some wonderful examples of great use of adjectives to describe Triceratops and Tyrannosaurus rex in the children’s work books.

Dinosaurs Help Children Develop Their Vocabulary

Children gain confidence using adjectives.

Children gain confidence using adjectives.

Picture credit: St Joseph’s RC Primary School/Everything Dinosaur

The children had lots of questions about dinosaurs, we were even asked about pterosaurs, so once we returned to the office we were able to send over some images of flying reptiles to help the teaching team explain what these animals looked like.  In addition, we were asked “which dinosaur is best?”  What a super question!  Rather than have our dinosaur expert answer it, we challenged the class to hold their own “dinosaur beauty contest” and vote for their favourite.

Dinosaur Detectives

We emailed over a set of six different dinosaur scale drawings and we put a special fact on each drawing about that specific prehistoric animal.  We then challenged Miss Stanton and her enthusiastic teaching assistant Mrs Sheikh, to get each child to pick their own personal favourite.  Could the children create a table to display the results?  What about making a line graph to show the voting preferences?

Microraptor – One of the Dinosaurs Chosen for the Classroom Vote

A great way to introduce things like tally counts and line graphs.

A great way to introduce things like tally counts and line graphs.

Picture credit: Everything Dinosaur

The second part of the dinosaur workshop was located in the classroom.  We showed the children several fossil teeth and then we got them to measure various dinosaur footprints and to compare the size of dinosaur’s feet to their own hands.  Lots of measuring cubes were used in this exercise and the children added and subtracted to work out how many one centimetre cubes bigger/smaller their own hands were when compared to the footprints.

A Dinosaur Themed Term Topic

This is the first time that the teaching team responsible for Year 1 have introduced a dinosaur themed term topic.  The children were really enthusiastic and keen to learn about prehistoric animals.  As a topic it is proving flexible enough to fit in with the demands of the new curriculum.

To learn more about Everything Dinosaur’s extensive product range: Email the team at Everything Dinosaur.

A Colourful Dinosaur Theme “Wow” Wall

A colourful dinosaur themed display.

A colourful dinosaur themed display.

Picture credit:  St Joseph’s RC Primary School/Everything Dinosaur

All to soon it was time to prepare for the end of the school day, but we did promise the children that when we got back to the Everything Dinosaur office we would email over additional teaching resources to help Miss Stanton, Mrs Sheikh and Year 1 to continue their “Dinosaur Detectives” topic.

To view the extensive range of educational, teaching resources available from Everything Dinosaur: Dinosaur Teaching Resources and Gifts.

26 06, 2015

Finally Getting to Look at the Face of Hallucigenia

By |2023-03-31T21:23:45+01:00June 26th, 2015|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Bizarre Hallucigenia Gets a Face

Growing up with an interest in fossils and prehistoric life, for many team members at Everything Dinosaur, meant that during their formative years, one of the most bizarre of all the animals that are known to have existed, would periodically enter their lives.  The mysterious Hallucigenia, fossils of which are found in the famous Burgess Shale deposits of British Columbia, would have a new research paper published and there would be a fresh perspective on this most peculiar looking creature.

Fossils of the Very Mysterious and Bizarre Hallucigenia

A fossil of Hallucigenia (Burgess Shale)

A fossil of Hallucigenia (Burgess Shale)

Burgess Shale Fossils

The facial features and the mouth of this little animal have finally been revealed.  A study conducted by scientists Dr Martin Smith (Cambridge University) and Dr Jean-Bernard Caron (Curator of Invertebrate Palaeontology, Royal Ontario Museum, Canada), has led to some of the mysteries surrounding Hallucigenia being resolved.  For example, we know now which end was the head and which end was the tail.  In addition, electron microscopy has shown that Hallucigenia had a ring of teeth inside its mouth and a further set of teeth running down its throat.

These teeth in the throat probably served as ratchets.  Palaeontologists think that the tube like body of Hallucigenia was designed to digest food that it sucked into the opening at the front of its body, the simple mouth.  The teeth in the throat may have helped to push food particles down the gut as well as preventing food from being sucked out again as the animal pumped in mud and water as part of its feeding mechanism.

This previously unidentified feature (a throat lined with needle-like teeth), helps connect this Cambrian sea creature to extant Velvet Worms and the evolution of the arthropods, which today make up more than 80% of all the animal life on Earth.


Commenting on the discovery of Hallucigenia’s facial features, Dr Smith explained:

“When we put it into the electron microscope, we were delighted to see not just a tiny pair of eyes looking back at us, but also beneath them a really cheeky semi-circular smile.  It was as if the fossil was grinning at us at the secrets that it had been hiding.”

This new study into Hallucigenia, the first fossils of which were found by Charles Walcott who discovered the Burgess Shale fossil site in 1909, has also solved another mystery.  Although, specimens are relatively rare in the Burgess Shale biota, a number of fossils that have been found show a tear shaped blob preserved adjacent to the body.  For some years, this was thought to be the head, or possibly some sort of appendage of the animal.  However, the new paper, published in the journal “Nature”, identifies these strange blobs as gut contents.

Dr Smith stated:

“What our study shows is that it [the blob] has a different composition from the animal.  And rather than representing part of its body, it actually represents decay fluid – the contents of its guts – squeezed out as the animal was buried and fossilised.”

 What was that Mysterious Blob?

A Hallucigenia specimen (Royal Ontario Museum).

A Hallucigenia specimen (Royal Ontario Museum).

Picture credit: Royal Ontario Museum/Dr. Jean Bernard Caron with additional annotation by Everything Dinosaur

The arrow in the picture shows the location of the strange blob.

A Rare Fossil

Compared to the bountiful fossils of other species associated with the Burgess Shale Formation, Hallucigenia fossils are rare, so much so that the first species to be formerly described in the Hallucigenia genus was named H. sparsa. It was English palaeontologist Simon Conway Morris who established the Hallucigenia genus after he reviewed the earlier Walcott study.  Walcott had thought that this little animal was some form of early bristle worm (polychaete worm), like a Lugworm, but Conway Morris decided that this creature was so unique it deserved its own genus.  He established the genus Hallucigenia, so named for its “bizarre and dream-like appearance”.

Like a number of other Burgess Shale animals, Hallucigenia was thought to be an evolutionary experiment that left no descendants.   The Cambridge University/Royal Ontario Museum team have been able to map, approximately where the alien-looking Hallucigenia fits into the Kingdom Animalia.  It seems to be a precursor to the Velvet Worms (Onychophorans), that still can be found in the tropics today.  Velvet Worms, arthropods and Tardigrades (Water Bears), belong to a huge group of animals that all moult, these are called Ecdysozoans.

Establishing the Phylogeny of Hallucigenia

The researchers were able to establish that Hallucigenia was not the common ancestor of these moulting animals but that it was an ancestor of the extant Onychophorans.  Finding the mouth and the  pharyngeal teeth (teeth in the throat), helped the scientists to determine that Velvet Worms originally had the same configuration, but these were eventually lost.

Dr Smith explained:

The early evolutionary history of this huge group is pretty much uncharted.  While we know that the animals in this group are united by the fact that they moult, we haven’t been able to find many physical characteristics that unite them”.

Dr Jean-Bernard Caron added:

“It turns out that the ancestors of moulting animals were much more anatomically advanced than we ever could have imagined, ring-like, plate-bearing worms with an armoured throat and a mouth surrounded by spines.  We previously thought that neither Velvet Worms nor their ancestors had teeth.  But Hallucigenia tells us that actually, Velvet Worm ancestors had them, and living forms just lost their teeth over time.”

Team members at Everything Dinosaur have a lot of time for the Hallucigenia genus.  Most of the individuals are much smaller than people imagine.  The largest specimens are around thirty-five millimetres in length and when Conway Morris published his research in 1979, it turns out that his study depicted this animal the wrong way up and back to front.

Remembering Early Reconstructions

Conway Morris illustrated Hallucigenia as walking on stiff spine-like legs, with a single row of tentacles waving around on its back.  A model was created that showed this new view of Hallucigenia.  The model can be seen at the start of the Royal Ontario Museum video featuring Dr Caron who explains about the latest research.  Although, anatomically not correct, the model remains a curiosity that is kept at the Museum along with a large number of Burgess Shale specimens including many of the fossils collected by Charles Walcott.

The Original Simon Conway Morris Model of Hallucigenia

The very alien-looking Hallucigenia model.

The very alien-looking Hallucigenia model.

Picture credit: Royal Ontario Museum

The bulbous head turns out to be the rear end of the creature and thanks to this new research (plus some similar types of Chinese fossils that have been extensively studied), we have a very different interpretation of this marine creature.  It looks quite graceful and delicate.  A picture of Charles Walcott can be seen in the background.

Based on the New Research The Reconstructed Hallucigenia

Scientists have been able to stare into the face of Hallucigenia for the first time.

Scientists have been able to stare into the face of Hallucigenia for the first time.

Picture credit: Danielle Dufault

Spines Evolved as Defensive Structures

Those spines, once thought to be legs probably evolved as a number of predators shared Hallucigenia’s marine habitat.  The spines would have been an effective deterrent against attacks from nektonic arthropods.

Hallucigenia remains one of the most remarkable animals within the Burgess Shale biota, but thanks to this new study some of the mysteries surrounding it have been solved.  It remains an enigmatic little creature and after more than a century since its discovery it is still capable of springing a few surprises.  The story of Hallucigenia and how it has been interpreted and reinterpreted over the years provides a fascinating example of how new techniques and study methods can lead to a reinterpretation of the fossil evidence.

CollectA have recently introduced a range of not-to-scale replicas of important animals from the Palaeozoic.  To review this range of models and figures: CollectA Prehistoric World Models.

25 06, 2015

Year 1 Go “Walking with Dinosaurs”

By |2023-03-31T21:12:58+01:00June 25th, 2015|Educational Activities, Main Page, Teaching|0 Comments

“Walking with Dinosaurs” with Year 1

Class One and Class Two (Year 1), at Thorpe Hesley Primary School (South Yorkshire), have been studying dinosaurs over the summer term and Everything Dinosaur were invited in to help enthuse pupils and teachers alike with the term topic entitled “Walking with Dinosaurs”.

The children had lots of questions about prehistoric animals and over the course of the two workshops, our dinosaur expert did his best to answer them all.  We had some super questions from the children and even the teachers asked a few questions.  For example, Mrs Oakley, the teacher of Class Two asked what colour were dinosaurs?

“Walking with Dinosaurs”

As part of the scheme of work prepared for this topic, the dedicated teaching staff had laid out a number of dinosaur themed workstations for the children.  There was part of the well-organised classroom dedicated to dinosaur art and the children were encouraged to have a go at drawing dinosaurs.  There were some lovely examples of the children’s drawings on display.

A Well Thought Out Workstation Encouraging Children to Draw

Well thought out dinosaur themed workstation

Well thought out dinosaur themed workstation

Picture credit: Thorpe Hesley Primary/Everything Dinosaur

Dinosaur Models in School

The picture shows two Stegosaurus dinosaur models. To view the range dinosaur and prehistoric animal models in stock at Everything Dinosaur: Dinosaur Toys, Dinosaur Models.

The workstation was well lit, and roomy.  All the resources were handy to help the children with their illustrations.  Mr Docherty, told us about a little boy who loved Megalodon “O. megalodon“,  was an extinct type of shark, that may have measured more than fifteen metres long.  The children looked at some super-sized shark fossils as we explored how fossils feel and thought of suitable adjectives for them.

In addition, amongst the prehistoric animal extension resources Everything Dinosaur emailed over to the school after our visit, we made sure to include a Megalodon fact sheet and scale drawing.

Marine Reptile Drawings

We also included a set of marine reptile drawing materials, as well as pictures of ammonites so that the children could create their very own prehistoric seascape.

Dinosaurs Appeal to Kinaesthetic Learners

Lots of tactile handling of different materials.

Lots of tactile handling of different materials.

Picture credit: Thorpe Hesley Primary/Everything Dinosaur

Extension Ideas and Activities

Our dinosaur expert explored herbivores and carnivores and we looked at dinosaur teeth.  Some of the children’s names are very similar to the names of prehistoric animals, this permitted us to send over some additional information on armoured dinosaurs such as Lexovisaurus and Scelidosaurus harrisonii.  Perhaps these additional extension resources sent over to Mrs Oakley and Miss Moran (Class One teacher), will inspire the budding young palaeontologists to have a go at designing their very own dinosaur.  If they do, we would want to see lots of labels on their model or drawing, an opportunity to utilise more adjectives.

As for the colours the children choose, the information we emailed over to Mrs Oakley in answer to her question about dinosaur colouration may help.  The children could also be encouraged to think about habitat and environment.  What colour might a plant-eating dinosaur living in a forest be?  What colour might a meat-eating dinosaur that lived in a desert be?  Can we introduce ideas like camouflage, perhaps looking at animals alive today to help inspire the classes?

For further information on Everything Dinosaur’s product range: Email Everything Dinosaur.

Sir Richard Owen

The pronunciation of prehistoric animals and all the terms that palaeontologists use can be a bit of a challenge.  Hopefully, the guide we gave Mrs Marshall (teaching assistant) will help.  Having met a young boy called Owen we explained that the word “dinosaur” was first coined by an Englishman (Richard Owen, later Sir Richard Owen).  We sent across some information all about this famous Victorian scientist, who recently had a blue plaque erected at his former school in Lancaster.

May be the children could create their very own blue plaque for Thorpe Hesley Primary, to celebrate studying “Walking with Dinosaurs”.

Blue Plaque Erected at the Former School of Sir Richard Owen

Sir Richard Owen honoured.

Sir Richard Owen honoured.

Picture credit: LRGS

The Year 1 teaching team which also includes Mr Meares, Mrs Burns along with school visitor Mrs Hawkins even provided the children with some bones of animals to explore.  Our dinosaur expert enjoyed looking at the various skulls of farm animals that had been brought in.  We even recognised the T. rex soft toy that had been placed next to the cranial material (skulls and jaws).  We are not sure what a real Tyrannosaurus rex would have made of it all.

Year 1 Children Can Explore the Bones of Animals

Wonderful use of different materials to show different properties.

Wonderful use of different materials to show different properties.

Picture credit: Thorpe Hesley Primary School

24 06, 2015

Early European Had Close Neanderthal Ancestor According to New Research

By |2024-05-05T14:17:34+01:00June 24th, 2015|Key Stage 3/4|Comments Off on Early European Had Close Neanderthal Ancestor According to New Research

Interbreeding between Early Modern Humans and Neanderthals

Scientists, including researchers from the Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology (Leipzig, Germany), have analysed fragments of ancient human jawbone and discovered significant amounts of Neanderthal genetic material in the genome.  The jawbone (mandible), comes from a cave complex in south-western Romania, the caves are famous for their mammal fossils and evidence of some of the earliest modern Europeans known.

The “Cave of Bones”

The cave is known as the  “Peștera cu Oase”, this translates as the “cave of bones”, reflecting the abundance of prehistoric mammal bones associated with the cave.

Radiocarbon dating estimates that the jawbone is approximately 37,800 years old (37,000 to 42,000 years).  The robust jaw and associated cranial material represent the oldest modern human (Homo sapiens) fossils known from Europe.

The Robust Human Jawbone Used in the Genetic Study

Early human jawbone.

DNA analysis reveals very recent Neanderthal ancestor.

Picture credit: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology/Svante Pääbo

Early Human Jawbone

In the genetic analysis, between six to nine percent of this individual’s genome originates from Homo neanderthalensis.  Most modern humans (except sub-Saharan humans), have between one and three percent Neanderthal material in their genome.  Scientists have suggested that interbreeding took place between these two closely related species between 50,000 and 60,000 years ago, but this new data suggests interbreeding in Europe took place much more recently.

The jawbone genetic material has a far greater concentration of Neanderthal genetic material than any other H. sapiens fossils or bones sequenced to date.  As significant portions of this individual’s chromosomes are Neanderthal, it suggests that a Neanderthal was one of this person’s most recent ancestors, perhaps a great grandfather or a great grandmother.

For further information on this research: A Neanderthal in the Family?

Teaching Suggestions

Link to: Inheritance, Evolution and Variation (Key Stage 4 – Science/Key Stage 4 Evolution)

  • The genome as the entire genetic material of an organism
  • Evidence for evolution
  • Genetic variation in populations of a species
  • The process of natural selection leading to evolution
  • How the genome and its interaction with the environment can influence the development of the phenotype of an organism
  • Developments in biology affecting classification

Everything Dinosaur stocks a range of prehistoric human figures including Neanderthals and a model set that depicts the evolution of hominids.

The Evolution of Man Model Set

Evolution of Man model set.

Tracing our evolution.

To view the range of prehistoric animal figures in stock at Everything Dinosaur: Safari Ltd. Evolution of Man Model Set/Prehistoric Figures.

24 06, 2015

New Sauropodomorph Dinosaur from South Africa

By |2023-03-31T18:36:40+01:00June 24th, 2015|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Sefapanosaurus – Another Piece in the Dinosaur Jigsaw Puzzle

Yet another example of a new genus of dinosaur found lurking in a museum collection, this time from South Africa.  Team members at Everything Dinosaur often state that one of the best places to find a new dinosaur species is not out in the field but by re-examining fossil material already within a museum’s collection.  New techniques have enabled palaeontologists to gain a much better understanding of known fossils, many of which might have been excavated and prepared decades earlier.

New South African Sauropodomorph

As the number of dinosaur discoveries grows, so scientists can use new fossil finds to compare and contrast already studied specimens, this can provide fresh insight and help to place a museum specimen into a wider context within the Dinosauria.

That’s exactly what happened in the case of the newly described sauropodomorph dinosaur named Sefapanosaurus zastronensis.   The team of South African and Argentinian palaeontologists who made this discovery, re-classified the fossils, which had been thought to represent another South African Sauropodomorph called Aardonyx (A. celestae).  Aardonyx had been named and described six years ago.

To read Everything Dinosaur’s article announcing the discovery of Aardonyx celestae: New Basal Sauropod Described.

Sefapanosaurus zastronensis

Researchers from South Africa’s University of Cape Town, the University of Witwatersrand, Museo de La Plata (Argentina) and Museo Paleontológico Egidio Feruglio (also Argentina) have published a scientific paper about this new dinosaur in the Zoological Journal of the Linnaean Society.  It is hoped that S. zastronensis will help palaeontologists to better understand the phylogenetic relationships between basal Sauropodomorpha and their spread and diversity during the Late Triassic/Early Jurassic.

A Reconstruction of Sefapanosaurus zastronensis

The bones shaded in grey represent actual fossil material.

The bones shaded in grey represent actual fossil material.

Picture credit: University of Witwatersrand

At Least Four Individual Animals Represented

The fossils represent at least four individuals and consist of post cranial material (limb bones, foot bones and some vertebrae) and they were found back in the 1930s and resided in the collection of the Evolutionary Studies Institute (University of Witwatersrand).  The Evolutionary Studies Institute houses the largest fossil collection in Africa, there are over 30,000 catalogued plant fossils and approximately 6,000 fossils from the Karoo Basin, most of the fossils originate from Africa, but there are a number of important specimens from elsewhere in the world housed at the Institute.

The Sefapanosaurus fossils were excavated from the Upper Elliot Formation (Zastron locality), the strata in this area dates from the very end of the Triassic to the beginning of the Jurassic geological period.   The fossils are estimated to be around 200 million years old and they were located more than one hundred miles south of where the Aardonyx celestae fossils were found.

Studying the Ankle Bones

One of the most distinctive features of this dinosaur are the ankle bones (astragalus), they are shaped like a cross.  This unique autapomorphy (distinct anatomical feature), accounts for this dinosaur’s name.  The genus name comes from the word “sefapano” in the local Sesotho dialect, it means “cross”.  The species name honours the small agricultural town of Zastron, which is close to where the fossils were found.

The Incomplete Left Foot (Pes) showing the Ankle Bones (Proximal View)

Holotype fossil material (386) showing ankle bones.

Holotype fossil material (386) showing ankle bones.

Picture credit: University of Witwatersrand with additional annotation from Everything Dinosaur

Tall Ascending Process of the Astragalus

One of the unique morphologies found in the fossil bones is the tall ascending process of the astragalus (ankle bone).

Anusuya Chinsamy-Turan (University of Cape Town), one of the co-authors of the scientific paper stated:

“The discovery of Sefapanosaurus shows that there were several of these transitional early sauropodomorph dinosaurs roaming around southern Africa about 200 million years ago.”

A subsequent phylogenetic analysis of basal sauropods from South American and southern Africa places Sefapanosaurus within the group of sauropodomorphs more closely related to sauropods than to the genus Massopondylus (Sauropodiformes).

Filling a Gap in Sauropod Evolution

Argentinian palaeontologist and lead author, Dr Alejandro Otero, explained that Sefapanosaurus helps to fill in the gap between the earliest Sauropodomorphs and the gigantic sauropods that are so well known, dinosaurs such as Brontosaurus, Apatosaurus, and Brachiosaurus from the Late Jurassic.

Everything Dinosaur stocks a large range of sauropod models in the Mojo Fun range of figures.  To view the Mojo Fun range of prehistoric animal models: Mojo Fun Prehistoric Animal and Extinct.

“Sefapanosaurus constitutes a member of the growing list of transitional sauropodmorph dinosaurs from Argentina and South Africa that are increasingly telling us how they diversified.”

A Diverse Early Jurassic Biota

The discovery of Sefapanosaurus and other recent dinosaur fossil finds in the Southern Hemisphere reveals that the diversity of plant-eating dinosaurs in Africa and South America was remarkably high in the Early Jurassic, a time when these two continents were joined together as part of a single super-continent known as Gondwana.

A picture of the Right Scapula (shoulder blade)

Scale bar =

Scale bar = 8cm

Picture credit: University of Witwatersrand

23 06, 2015

Early European Had Close Neanderthal Ancestor According to New Study

By |2024-05-05T14:18:17+01:00June 23rd, 2015|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Main Page, Teaching|0 Comments

Early Modern European Humans Interbred with Neanderthals

The very last of the Neanderthals may have died out some 28,000 years ago but their legacy lives on as the modern human genome (Homo sapiens) contains traces of Neanderthal genetic material.  The Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis) are the closest related species to our own, we share a common ancestor but this fact alone does not account for the one to three percent contribution to the genome of Eurasians, scientists believe that some time in the recent past these two species interbred.  It seems that interbreeding between these two related species may have taken place much more recently than previously thought.

A new scientific paper published in the journal “Nature” reports on the study of an ancient human jawbone, this research suggests that interbreeding took place as recently as some 40,000 years ago.

The Ancient Human Jawbone Used in the Genetic Study

DNA analysis reveals very recent Neanderthal ancestor.

DNA analysis reveals a very recent Neanderthal ancestor.

Picture credit: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology/Svante Pääbo

Robust Human Jawbone

A robust human mandible was discovered in a cave system close to the town of Anina in south-western Romania back in 2002.  The cave contains a huge amount of mammal bones including large numbers of Cave Bears (Ursus spelaeus) which probably used one of the chambers in the cave system as a hibernation den.  The explorers found that a number of bones had been placed on nearby rocks, this suggested human activity and sure enough, the remains of early modern humans were found.  A beautifully preserved human jawbone (mandible) and part of a skull were discovered.

Radiocarbon dating estimates that the jawbone is around 37,800 years old, making these fossil materials the oldest modern human bones to have been found in Europe.  The cave, was called the “Peștera cu Oase”, which translates from the Romanian to mean “the cave of bones”.

Even if more conservative dating methods are used, the human remains come out at between 37,000 and 42,000 years old.  The jaw is definitely H. sapiens as it shows a number of modern human morphologies including a prominent chin.  However, a genetic analysis carried out by an international team of researchers which included scientists from Harvard Medical School, the Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology and the Chinese Academy of Sciences, indicates that between six to nine percent of this person’s genome originates from Neanderthals.  This is far greater than any other human sequenced to date.

Neanderthal Ancestor

As large segments of this individual’s chromosomes are Neanderthal in origin, it suggests that a Neanderthal was among this person’s most recent ancestors, perhaps just four to six generations back in this Romanian’s family tree.  This new study provides substantial evidence that the first modern humans that arrived in Europe interbred with local Neanderthals.

Put simply, the person whose jawbone was found in the cave may have had a Neanderthal great grandparent!

A Researcher Carefully Extracts Fragments of Bone for the DNA Analysis

For their analysis the researchers used 35 milligrams of bone powder from the jawbone.

For their analysis the researchers used 35 milligrams of bone powder from the jawbone.

Picture credit: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology/Svante Pääbo

Homo sapiens bred with Homo neanderthalensis

A previous study had suggested that early modern humans migrating out of Africa mixed with Neanderthals in the Middle East between 50,000 and 60,000 years ago.  Modern humans spread eastwards into Asia and westwards into Europe.  Eventually, it was our species that spread to all parts of the world, the last of the Neanderthals dying out around 28,000 years ago.

One of the lead authors of the report Qiaomei Fu (Chinese Academy of Sciences), stated:

“The data from the jawbone imply that humans mixed with Neanderthals not just in the Middle East but in Europe as well.”

Svante  Pääbo (Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology), added:

“It is such a lucky and unexpected thing to get DNA from a human who was so closely related to a Neanderthal.”

Removing the Contaminating DNA

The research team had to very carefully sift out all the contaminating DNA before being able to assess the presence of remnants of Neanderthal genetic material.  Most of the contamination was caused by microbial DNA in contact with the bone whilst it was in the cave, most of the hominin DNA recorded came from researchers who had handled the fossil bone.

Only a very tiny proportion of the genetic material analysed could be traced back to its Neanderthal origins.

The robust jaw and teeth do show some Neanderthal morphologies, this is to be expected given the close relatedness of this person to H. neanderthalensis.  The scientists hope to continue their studies and identify more Neanderthal genetic material from ancient human remains.  This will help them map potential Neanderthal/human interactions across Europe and Asia.

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