Project Overview

DAWNDINOS is a five year research project studying the dawn of the age of dinosaurs.

It is funded by a European Research Council grant (Advanced Investigator award) which was awarded to Professor John Hutchinson, scientific researcher in the field of evolutionary biomechanics based at the Royal Veterinary College in London.

Dinosaurs are among the most successful group of vertebrate animals ever to walk on the planet. Their diverse structure and form coupled with their worldwide fossil record makes them excellent subjects for research on the evolution of movement behaviours.

Dinosaurs belong to a larger group of animals called archosaurs which includes today’s living birds and crocodiles; and also pterosaurs, which like dinosaurs (other than their descendants, birds) are extinct.

What is striking is that the earliest dinosaurs were very different from most other archosaurs – notably due to their erect posture (keeping the legs close together near the body midline) and bipedalism (at least intermittently).

Broadly speaking there are two types of archosaur:

  • Those more closely related to birds (bird-line) called the ornithodirans, which includes dinosaurs and pterosaurs;
  • And those more closely related to crocodiles (crocodile-line) called the pseudosuchians, which are less popularly known.

 Archosaur Lineage (“Family Tree”)


Interestingly, during the late Triassic period about 225 million years ago (which was before the Jurassic), it was the crocodile-line animals (pseudosuchians) that dominated the landscape – they were bigger, more numerous, more diverse and more successful than dinosaurs. There were some dinosaurs around but they were small and few in numbers; the late Triassic was a ‘crocodile-world’!

Then in the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods that followed, things started to change and the dinosaurs diversified and dramatically increased in numbers to become the most common, largest and most successful land vertebrates in the Mesozoic era.

So between the late Triassic and the early Jurassic, something happened – the big crocodile-line animals all started to vanish from the fossil record (leaving only true crocodiles, ultimately), and were replaced by dinosaurs, which then got bigger, more numerous and more diverse as they filled the ecological space left by the pseudosuchians. Birds only evolved from dinosaur ancestors later; in the Jurassic.

There are various ideas about this shift from crocodile-line to dinosaur/bird-line dominance. The DAWNDINOS research team will be testing the ‘Locomotor Superiority Hypothesis.’ for the first time to see if this explains why dinosaurs succeeded across the Triassic-Jurassic transition and why the crocodile-line did not enjoy the same success on land.


March 2022

Dawndinos Finale…

The DAWNDINOS grant officially ends today, 31 March. I’m sad to see this day come, after 5.5 years of science, working with 13 internal team members and many external collaborators over the years. We’ve produced a prodigious amount of scientific research during this time; 28 papers so far and maybe as many more to come! See here and watch this space: https://dawndinos.com/published-papers/

And we’ve done some fun and informative public outreach on our science, summarised here: https://dawndinos.com/home/outreach/

I’m proud of what we’ve done so far and I’m VERY excited to bring out the next and final stages of our research, and we’ll still talk about it here as outreach, so please do return.

Thanks to everyone that has helped us; too many to thank! But of course, thanks to the European Research Council for our generous funding.

Professor John R. Hutchinson, RVC


Dawndinos Awayday

The Dawndinos team had a great time cooking up South Indian dishes as a team exercise in London last week,  Then even more fun eating our delicious creations!

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This was followed by a productive project meeting at the spectacular Fanhams Hall in Ware, Hertfordshire.

It was really nice to actually have the team all together for the first time in almost exactly 2 years of remote working!

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New Scientist Live, Manchester 12-14 March


Lucy Eckersley, wild animal biologist and RVC’s  Outreach and Development Manager, will be delivering a short talk “Awesome animals by the Royal Veterinary College” for families, children and teens at the upcoming New Scientist Live event in Manchester, (https://live.newscientist.com/) and will be showcasing the fantastic research going on across the Royal Veterinary College including the Dawndinos project!

Lucy’s presentation will be taking place at 10:30 – 11:15 on Monday 14 March on the Joule Stage  and is ideally suited to Key Stage 3 & 4 students.  If you are attending NSL be sure to check this out as her talk will include some awesome crocodile videos from Dawndinos research!


Hot off the press!

In our latest Dawndinos paper, ‘Three-dimensional polygonal muscle modelling and line of action estimation in living and extinct taxa,’  just published in Scientific Reports, Oliver Demuth, Dr Ashleigh Wiseman and Professor John Hutchinson describe a method to create 3D muscle models for living and extinct animals!

Ashleigh, who left Dawndinos a few months ago and works as a palaeoanthropologist at the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research at the University of Cambridge, has written a blog post about this paper which you can check out here: https://walkinginthepast.co.uk/the-walking-with-hominins-project-blog

The paper in Scientific Reports can be found here

January 2022

Blog post by Dr Ashleigh Wiseman on Dawndinos latest paper!

New Dawndinos paper just published, by Ashleigh Wiseman, Oliver Demuth and John Hutchinson describes a new method to salvage imperfect XROMM data; or otherwise make usage of biplanar fluoroscopy data with fewer than optimal tracking markers.
Ashleigh Wiseman, who left Dawndinos a few months ago and works as a palaeoanthropologist at the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research at the University of Cambridge, has written a blog post about this paper. So, if you’re interested in the backstory to this research, check her blog out!  https://walkinginthepast.co.uk/the-walking-with-hominins-project-blog/

The paper in Integrative Organismal Biology can be found here

December 2021

Evolution of Horses and more!

The evolution of the horse is one of the best records of change through time within the fossil record. From the tiny ‘dawn horse’ fifty-million-years-ago to the modern Equus, the horse and its ancestors have roamed the earth as one of evolution’s most successful mammals.

In this video Prof John Hutchinson talks with Mark Torrender from Evolution Soup about the origins of the horse, its geographical distribution, and how humans came to harness this magnificent animal. He also discusses Dawndinos research too!  Enjoy.


November 2021

New study on 3D geometric morphometrics of Triassic archosauriform femora!

The DAWNDINOS team has published an exciting new study, about how the thigh bone (femur) of Triassic archosaurs varied according to locomotor habits (quadrupedal/bipedal) and body size. The study, published in Journal of Anatomy, was led by Romain Pintore, PhD student at CNRS/MNHN in Paris, FR and former Research Assistant on the DAWNDINOS project.  Click here to find out more!

Tyrannosaurus bite activity !

How do scientists determine the strength of dinosaur muscles and just how powerful were the jaws of Tyrannosaurus rex? Interested to find out more? Click here

September 2021

Dr François Clarac joins DAWNDINOS team!

François Clarac joins us as Postdoctoral Researcher on 27 September 2021 and we are delighted to welcome him to the DAWNDINOS team! Read more about François ….

Goodbye to Dr Ashleigh Wiseman

Sadly we say goodbye to Ashleigh at the end of September. Ashleigh has made a huge contribution to DAWNDINOS research and been a  valuable member of our team during her 2 years on the project. Ashleigh leaves us to take up a Fellowship at the University of Cambridge.

Ashleigh remains a collaborator on the project so hasn’t gone completely! We wish her well and every success with her future endeavours.

Computer simulations reveal dinosaurs wagged their tails when running!

Dr Peter Bishop, former postdoctoral researcher on the Dawndinos team (currently a research fellow at Harvard University, USA) and Prof John Hutchinson have discovered that dinosaurs, like Tyrannosaurus and Velociraptor, wagged their tails when running, similar to how humans swing their arms when moving -which helped them stay balanced. 
Science Advances: Volume 7, article abi7348 https://doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.abi7348

Or read more at: rvc.uk.com/dinosaur-tails

August 2021

Dr James Charles joins DAWNDINOS team!

James Charles joins us as Postdoctoral Researcher on 2 September 2021 and we are delighted to welcome him to the DAWNDINOS team! Read more about James….

New Summary of DAWNDINOS project research!

If you would like an overview of DAWNDINOS research, watch this new video compiled and presented by Emily Keeble, with contributions from Prof John HutchinsonRomain Pintore, Delyle Polet and Oliver Demuth.


Dr Philip Morris joins the DAWNDINOS team!

Philip Morris joins us as Research Technician in 3D Anatomy on 2 August 2021. Phil has a diverse research background including archaeology, palaeontology, virtual anatomy and biomechanics, and enjoys exploring all aspects of the function and evolution of skeletal anatomy. This has taken him from the bioanthropological examination of bones from Viking burials to the virtual analysis of rodent jaws. Phil settled into a firm fascination in anatomy and biomechanics whilst studying the evolution of rodent jaw morphology during his PhD at the Hull York Medical School.

We are delighted to welcome Phil to the DAWNDINOS team!  Read more about Phil….

July 2021

Goodbye to Emily Keeble

Sadly we have to say goodbye to Emily who  is moving to the USA to study for a PhD in vertebrate palaeontology at Virginia Tech.

Emily will be using microsite data to study how faunal compositions changed throughout the Triassic in the US. She says, “Microsites are great for this as they usually contain a great diversity of fossils: larger bones from small animals and things like teeth and osteoderms from larger animals. This gives a good idea of what was present in an ecosystem allowing for a much more accurate analysis than if we were just looking at the large animals, for example.”

Emily has been a fantastic member of the team and made  a huge contribution to the DAWNDINOS research and outreach activities. She still remains a collaborator  on the project so hasn’t gone completely! We wish her well and every success with her future endeavours.

May 28 2021

2 #DAWNDINOS jobs advertised! Come join the team!

Full-time, right to work in UK needed: 2 August 2021-31 March 2022 contract (=8 months)

  1. Postdoctoral Researcher in Evolutionary Biomechanics: https://jobs.rvc.ac.uk/vacancy.aspx?ref=CBS-0112-21

2. Technician in 3D Anatomy: https://jobs.rvc.ac.uk/vacancy.aspx?ref=CBS-0105-21

Interviews on 21 June 2021; application deadline 13 June 2021

Contact PI John Hutchinson if you have any questions.


Date: 28 May, 2:00pm – 10:00pm BST,  Location: Online/Zoom

		Triassic Vertebrate Paleontology Meetup (TVPM) image

We are excited to announce that our Triassic Vertebrate Paleontology Meetup (TVPM)  will be held on Friday 28 May! TVPM is a one-day, online, mini-conference designed to be fun and informal so you can catch up with colleagues that you haven’t seen in a long while! Either give a 5 or 15 minute talk, or just come along for the science and informal chats during the virtual coffee breaks!

TVPM is brought to you by the DAWNDINOS team led by Prof. John R. Hutchinson at The Royal Veterinary College (UK) (https://dawndinos.com/), and Dr. Michelle Stocker at Virginia Tech’s Paleobiology & Geobiology Research Group (USA) (https://www.paleo.geos.vt.edu/).

Early career scientists are encouraged to present, and ANYONE is welcome to attend as a casual non-presenter! Any presentations directly focusing on Triassic fossil vertebrates are encouraged. Talks will not be recorded; live only.


  • Register here with payment (student/postdoc-level £5, faculty/curator level £10) by *Friday 7 May 2021* to be eligible for presenting. https://www.eventbrite.com/e/triassic-vertebrate-paleontology-meetup-tvpm-registration-150921505285   (REGISTRATION IS CLOSED)
  • Come up with a simple title (25 words or less) and (one only) main author.
  • Decide if you want a 5 or 15 minute talk. These are the only options. You may be assigned either, depending on availability, but we will try to follow preferences.  Enter these details here: https://forms.gle/r7godSf4oUez5Mor9
  • Prepare your presentation in any format; the meeting will be on Zoom and details will be sent to presenters the week of 10 May 2021. Use of a headset microphone is strongly encouraged. Time limits will be enforced, so please keep presentations short.


We do not have a scheduled time period for questions directed to speakers, but social breaks will enable discussion. Details will follow.

There will be “coffee breaks” and a lunch break with a virtual Triassic palaeoart gallery, and a palaeontology-trivia-focussed “pub quiz” at the end.

We hope to see you there!  Any questions in the meantime please email Louise Kermode (organiser) lkermode@rvc.ac.uk

		Triassic Vertebrate Paleontology Meetup (TVPM) image

Our wonderful logo is by Emily Keeble (RVC)!


April 7 2021

DAWNDINOS debuts Dr Delyle Polet’s ‘Dinosaur Balancing Game’ on National Biomechanics Day !

Join us in the world-wide celebration of biomechanics by exploring how palaeontologists determine the posture of extinct organisms. We are delighted to debut Dr Delyle Polet’s “Dinosaur-Balancing Game” for this activity!

Check it out here ! Have fun!

March 2021

Goodbye to  Romain Pintore

Sadly we said goodbye to Romain at the end of March. Romain has made a huge contribution to  DAWNDINOS research and been a  valuable member of our team. During his 18 months on the project Romain studied the femoral specialization of early archosauriforms alongside locomotor habit and body size.  Romain will continue with the next steps of his PhD at the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle/CNRS at Paris with the Gravibone team where he will study the diversity of limb bone specializations in relation to locomotor mode and the increase of body size among various dinosaur clades after the Triassic-Jurassic transition.

Romain remains a collaborator on the project so hasn’t gone completely! We wish him well and every success with the rest of his PhD and future endeavours.

New DAWNDINOS research paper on the evolution of dinosaurian leg muscle functions in locomotion!

Professor Hutchinson and colleagues published a longterm study using 13 computer models to estimate how the leg muscles of dinosaurs changed their functions across >250 million years of evolution. See the RVC press release story here, the blog explanation here, and the paper here!

Furthermore, the team (led by Dr. Ashleigh Wiseman) published their first biomechanical study of Nile crocodiles, combining experimental analysis of locomotion with musculoskeletal computer models-– see here!

February 2021

Students at Nueva School in Hillsborough, California learn about DAWNDINOS research!

Professor Hutchinson continued with DAWNDINOS outreach this week when he spoke via Zoom with over 20, 5th Grade Science students at Nueva School in Hillsborough, California about  our project and dinosaur locomotion. He received great feedback from the students and a fun time was had by all!

DAWNDINOS after school ‘Dino Club’ goes Virtual!

Professor Hutchinson and the DAWNDINOS team are looking forward to exploring the exciting world of early dinosaurs with students from Chancellor’s School in Hertfordshire at our first ever online Dino Club!

At the club, which starts today and will run on Monday afternoons for the next 5 weeks (22 February – 22 March 2021), students will have the opportunity to learn about evolutionary diversification and adaptation, species that are under threat of extinction and climate change. There will be lots of fun and computer-based activities too including an introduction to the anatomy of dinosaurs and how they moved.

The DAWNDINOS team will explain how cutting-edge techniques are used in their research and  have revolutionised the study of animal biomechanics and locomotion. They will look at 3D digital modelling and how the data from the living relatives of Triassic crocodiles and dinosaurs will help estimate muscle function and movement in these extinct animals. Students will also gain an insight into how we have started to develop computer simulations to estimate how different species of extinct archosaurs – the group of animals that includes crocodiles, birds, their relatives and dinosaurs – might  have moved!

January 2021

Read our blog post for Paleobiology on DAWNDINOS ‘How to Build a Dinosaur: Musculoskeletal modeling and simulation of locomotor biomechanics in extinct animals’ paper by, Dr Peter Bishop, Dr Andrew Cuff and Professor John Hutchinson, It has a work flow for building your own virtual dinosaur (making and using 3D muscular skeletal models of archosaurs).

Building your own virtual dinosaur « Earth & Environmental Science « Cambridge Core Blog

December 2020

Dr Delyle Polet joins the DAWNDINOS team!

Delyle Polet joins us as Postdoctoral Researcher on 4 January 2021, having recently gained his PhD in Evolutionary Biology from the University of Calgary and we are delighted to welcome him to the DAWNDINOS team! Delyle will be working remotely from Canada initially and then he will join us in-person later in the year (pandemic permitting!)

He will be a great asset to the team!    READ more about Delyle…..

Goodbye to Dr Peter Bishop

Sadly we have to say goodbye to Peter who  is moving to the Museum of Comparative Zoology (Department of Organismic & Evolutionary Biology) at Harvard University, U.S.A., to take up a position as Postdoctoral Fellow, where he will be studying locomotor function, performance and evolution in synapsids on the line to mammals. Peter  has been a fantastic member of the team and made  a huge contribution to the DAWNDINOS research. He still remains a collaborator  on the project so hasn’t gone completely! We wish him well and every success with his future endeavours.

Walk the Walk! Learn about walking by doing it!   

Have fun with our latest  activity  Walk the Walk!

Explore locomotor biomechanics and mechanical advantage and enjoy learning about walking by doing it!

Register NOW to  hear Prof John Hutchinson’s talk on 1st DECEMBER at the Virtual Symposium on 3D Visualization Technologies in Cultural Heritage!

This symposium is themed around how practitioners in cultural heritage, ranging from natural science to humanities, are utilising cutting edge visualization technologies for research and public engagement. These novel technologies, digitization methods such as laser scanning and computed tomography and visualization technologies such as 3D printing, augmented reality and virtual reality, promise to revolutionise the ways in which researchers and institutions can organise, educate and facilitate cultural heritage. 3D Vis has been organised to bring together experts in the field, both companies from industry with expertise in delivering such experiences and practitioners who design and require such technologies.

Professor Hutchinson will give his talk during Session 2, at 5pm on Tuesday 1st December about 3D biomechanical models and simulations of how early dinosaurs moved and how  this amazing technology is  being applied in DAWNDINOS research

Registrations and connecting to the conference will be taking place online. It is free to attend.

Register here for Professor Hutchinson’s talk! https://event.webinarjam.com/register/122/2zzrmh8l

November 2020

Dawndinos Crossword!

Test your knowledge of archosaurs, the Triassic period and other aspects of the DAWNDINOS research with our amazing new crossword! All answers can be found on this website!

To access the crossword use the link to the Dawndinos Crossword page.

October 2020

New DAWNDINOS studies of archosaur locomotion

The DAWNDINOS team, led by Dr. Peter Bishop, have now published two papers on the locomotion of extinct archosaurs, in the journal Paleobiology. These studies advance our project towards its major goals of reconstructing how locomotion evolved in Archosauria, such as the multiple origins of bipedalism, and advancing methods in biomechanical modelling and simulation in order to better test whether Triassic dinosaurs had some form of “locomotor superiority”, such as faster running speeds, relative to pseudosuchian archosaurs.

To learn more about archosaur evolution and locomotor biomechanics/anatomy with awesome diagrams, pictures and videos click here!

Dawndinos  welcomes schools to sign up for virtual ‘Dino Club’   

For more information on this exciting opportunity for students (11 – 16 years) to learn more about our project and the exciting world of early dinosaurs at our Zoom Dino Club, click here!

How heavy  is your Pet Dinosaur? 

Have fun with this child-friendly activity by Mark David Walker, a research biologist from Sheffield. It can be done at school or at home with toy dinosaurs!  This activity uses, a simple method to calculate dinosaur mass using models. Students make scientific
measurements, use mathematical concepts such as density and scale, and follow simple steps and procedures. As students (and many adults) find dinosaurs inherently interesting, this is an ideal way to integrate maths into biology lessons. Click here!

September 2020

Congratulations to  Oliver Demuth!

A new study just published in Scientific Reports shows how scientists from the University of Bristol and the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) used three-dimensional computer modelling to investigate the range of motion in the hindlimb of  the stem-archosaur Euparkeria capensis–a small reptile that lived in the Triassic Period 245 million years ago – and inferred that it had a “mosaic” of functions in locomotion.

Oliver Demuth, research technician on the Dawndinos project, led the study and this is his  first, first-author paper. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-70175-y

To find out more about the study click here! ‘New modelling of ancient fossil movement reveals important step in the evolution of posture in the ancestors of dinosaurs and crocodiles’

A graphical abstract of Oliver’s study is also available: Graphical_abstract_Euparkeria

Last video is published in Dawndinos outreach series

It’s time for the final, 5th video by Emily Keeble, research technician from the Dawndinos team.

This video  features, Prof John Hutchinson,  Dr Peter Bishop and Romain Pintore – all from the Dawndinos research team! It introduces the project with cool animations of 3D models. Enjoy!

Video 5: The Dawndinos Project



August 2020

Special news item!

Stories of Women in vertebrate paleontology

Here’s the video for the new book ‘Rebels, Scholars, Explorers. Women in Vertebrate Paleontology’ by Annalisa Berta / Susan Turner, published by Johns Hopkins Press.

We enjoyed the video so much we want to share it on our site!

It is heart warming with some great advice on seeking mentorship, in particular. We hope you enjoy it as much as we do. 


New activity added, have fun!

The latest activity just added to our activities section looks at the Adaptations of the Human Hand. Have fun doing the tasks!

…….More activities will be added soon so watch this space!

July 2020

Video 4: Thinking Twice!

Thinking twice about the ‘Locomotor Superiority Hypothesis’?

Were dinosaurs special? Maybe yes!

Spurred on by  new evidence and analyses from 3 studies by Kubo and Kubo ,  Emily Keeble, Dawndinos project’s research technician explains more in the 4th video in our exciting series!

Video 4: Thinking Twice

Video 3, An Opposing Hypothesis

In video 3 (series of 5) Emily Keeble  explains how the diversity and disparity of archosaurs across the Triassic-Jurassic boundary might mean that dinosaurs weren’t “superior” but “lucky”!

Video 3: An Opposing Hypothesis

June 2020

‘Origins of the Locomotor Superiority Hypothesis’

Video 2 in DAWNDINOS Outreach Series!

The second video (in a series of five) by Emily Keeble, research technician on the DAWNDINOS team, is now available!

Were dinosaurs special? Might their greater athleticism compared to other Triassic animals help explain their survival past the Triassic mass extinctions?  In Video 2, Emily explains the background and science of this idea, which is being tested in our current research.

Video 2: Origins of the Locomotor Superiority Hypothesis


New Lockdown/School Activity added!

Another fun  lockdown/school activity!  This time on functional morphology of limb proportions & “morphometrics.”

What does bone shape tell you about possible animal athleticism?  Check this out and explore leg bone differences between lightly and heavily built archosaurs!

First video launched in DAWNDINOS Outreach Series!

DAWNDINOS has launched the first video in a series that explores the Locomotor Superiority Hypothesis.

Emily Keeble, research technician on the team, explains what the “Locomotor Superiority Hypothesis” is for early dinosaur success across the Triassic-Jurassic boundary and general background about that time.

Did early dinosaurs survive the Triassic-Jurassic mass extinctions around 200 million years ago because they were more athletic in some way(s)?

In Video 1, Emily explores the background of this idea, which is being tested in our current research.

Video 1 : The Locomotor Superiority Hypothesis

….. Watch out for more videos in this series!

Archosaur Adaptations …….added to Activities page!

Have fun designing your own archosaur!

May 2020

DAWNDINOS Lockdown Quiz

We have just added a DAWNDINOS Lockdown Quiz to our Activities page, for you to do at home!

All the answers can be found on this website so why not have some fun and have a go! (There is a link to the answers page at the end of the quiz if you get stuck!)

You will learn lots about the research the Dawndinos team are doing too!

Click  DAWNDINOS Lockdown Quiz  to get started!

April 2020

Activities to do at home during Lockdown!

We are living in uncertain times and as students and families are stuck at home during the coronavirus pandemic we thought it would be fun to demonstrate some basic biomechanical principles in action using commonplace items that are found around the home, to provide an understanding of the diversity of body form and how it may relate to function.

We have added an Activities page  to this website.

The first 2 activities show the concept of  ‘mechanical advantage.’

ACTIVITY 1 Bucket Lift
ACTIVITY 2 Elbow Flex

More activities will be added….so watch this space!


National Biomechanics Day, April 8th 2020

NBD 2020As all physical events are postponed this year the Dawndinos team would like to acknowledge 2020 NBD in a fun and safe way by posting some of the photos from our 2019 NBD event, ‘Night at the Vet College’ held at our Camden Campus!

Romain’s American Adventure!

Read about Romain Pintore’s, recent trip to the US here! Lots of great photos too!

March 2020

Emily Keeble joins DAWNDINOS!

We are delighted to welcome Emily Keeble our new 3D Anatomy Technician to the DAWNDINOS team today, Monday 30 March!

Emily completed her MSci in palaeontology and evolution at the University of Bristol and will be starting off by segmenting and modelling the early aetosaur Coahomasuchus!


February 2020

How fast are alligators?

Do you think you could outrun an alligator? What about a hippo?

On Tuesday 11 February 2020 the BBC Radio’s More or Less programme broadcast Tim Harford’s interview with Professor John Hutchinson about his galloping research to get some answers to these questions!
To find out more …………….. Listen here!

December 2019

Dino Club & Digital Modelling: The final challenge! 

At Dino Club today students enjoyed exploring how we use OpenSim software to simulate movement and the forces occurring within the body in digital models of two archosaurs. They were given either an OpenSim model of  Batrachotomus (rauisuchian) or Coelophysis (theropod) and the challenge was to find a posture that enabled these archosaurs to remain balanced on their feet without falling over!  Read more here

Sadly this was the last Dino Club for the 2019 season!  The Dawndinos team has enjoyed running the 2018 and 2019 Dino Club at Onslow St Audrey’s School  and would like to thank staff at the school for their help and support.

Sessions have been fun with lots of hands on activities and students have enjoyed  exploring  the exciting world of biomechanics and learning about the age of early dinosaurs.

Dino Club hopes to return next year at another school.

…………………… so watch this space for Dino Club 2020!


November 2019

Dino Club returns!

Following the success of  ‘Dino Club 2018’ the DAWNDINOS team returned to Onslow St Audrey’s School in Hatfield this week to present this popular after-school science club!

On Tuesday afternoons from 12 Nov-10 Dec the club will explore the exciting world of early dinosaurs with a new group of students. Professor Hutchinson and the DAWNDINOS team will look at life in the Triassic period, mass extinctions and ecosystems. Students will have the opportunity to learn about evolutionary diversification and adaptation, species that are under threat of extinction and climate change.

The team will explain how cutting-edge techniques are used in their research and have revolutionised the study of animal biomechanics and locomotion and how they have started to develop computer simulations to estimate how different species of extinct archosaurs (the group of animals that includes crocodiles, birds, their relatives and dinosaurs) might have moved!

There will be lots of fun activities too including an introduction to the anatomy of dinosaurs, how they moved and the opportunity to play with 3D printed dinosaur bones to figure out how their joints worked. Students will also have the chance to play with computer software and flesh out skeletons of dinosaurs!

At the end of each session a short quiz will be rewarded with some great DAWNDINOS prizes!

Students looking at British mammals that have gone extinct at the first ‘Dino Club’ on 12 November


October 2019

Welcome to Oliver Demuth!

We are delighted to welcome Oliver Demuth to the DAWNDINOS team on 21st October as Research Technician. Oliver joins us having just completed a MSc in Palaeobiology at the University of Bristol, where he was involved in a research project on the limb biomechanics of the stem-archosaur Euparkeria under the supervision of Prof Emily Rayfield and Prof John Hutchinson.

Oliver is also a scientific illustrator and  has published illustrations in research articles and the international press and participated with his paintings and illustrations in several exhibitions in Europe and North America.

Oliver’s arrival makes the  team complete! Exciting times ahead for DAWNDINOS research!

Welcome to Romain Pintore!

We are delighted to announce that Romain Pintore joined the DAWNDINOS team on 1st October as Research Assistant. He will be based with us and his role will be to expand our project (while carrying out his PhD) into the GRAVIBONE project led by Alexandra Houssay at MNHN/CNRS, also funded by the ERC. Romain will be studying cancellous bone in archosaurs in relation to locomotion.

August 2019

New musculoskeletal model!

Our tinamou OpenSim model (Eudromia elegans) by Dr. Peter Bishop and the rest of the team is done! Here it is– now we simulate its locomotion next!



Farewell  Dr Andrew Cuff …. and Welcome Dr Ashleigh Wiseman!

Sadly we have said goodbye to Dr Andrew Cuff who left at the end of August to take up an exciting new position as Associate Lecturer in Anatomy at Hull York Medical School. Andrew has been a fantastic member of the team and made a huge contribution to the DAWNDINOS research. He still remains a collaborator on the project so hasn’t gone completely! We wish him well and every success with his future endeavours.

…… And we are delighted to welcome Dr Ashleigh Wiseman to the team as the new Postdoctoral Researcher on the DAWNDINOS project later this month! Ashleigh joins us having recently gained her PhD in evolutionary biomechanics of locomotion in hominins at Liverpool John Moores University.


RVC Summer School  (Secondary STEM students) learn about biomechanics and other fun science at DAWNDINOS outreach morning!

On 28th August 2019, thirty students (Year 11) on the RVC Summer School programme visited the Structure and Motion Lab and met the DAWNDINOS team to explore the Triassic, dinosaurs/archosaurs, modelling/simulation, biomechanics, anatomy and many more aspects of our research!

Professor Hutchinson introduced students to our research by giving the background and an overview the DAWNDINOS project.

Dr. Michel looked at cutting edge techniques including XROMM which has revolutionised the study of animal biomechanics, and Professor Hutchinson introduced students to modelling and simulation and explained how we digitally reconstruct extinct species.

Dr. Bishop explored the physics of movement and showed students how muscles work and control movement.

We received some great feedback from the students………

“The session was extremely interesting, something I knew very little about, and it has opened my mind to consider working in this area.”

“I enjoyed learning about parallels between living animals and their extinct relatives.”

“I enjoyed everything but particularly learning about locomotor superiority and the advancement of computers. I am interested in a career in biosciences and now especially in biomechanics.”

The session ended with a quiz (with DAWNDINOS prizes!) to test what students had learned. No one left empty handed as cool key rings were given to everyone!!

Thank you to everyone involved.  An enjoyable morning was had by all!


New  Paper Published in ‘Scientific Reports,’ reveals baby Mussaurus dinosaur crawled on four limbs before learning to walk on two legs!

Scientists from the DAWNDINOS project are part of an international team that have discovered that an early species of dinosaur, Mussaurus patagonicus, could only move on four limbs when born but switched to two legs as it grew up, just as humans do. The study was published in  Scientific Reports.

Mussaurus Hatchling Skeleton (CRedit J Bonaparte)
Mussaurus Hatchling Skeleton ( Credit: J Bonaparte)

As Mussaurus patagonicus existed in the Early Jurassic period, just over 200 million years ago, this new study provides interesting insight into the evolution of later, gigantic, quadrupedal dinosaurs (sauropods).

For more information on the research:

Early Jurassic dinosaur shifted from four legs to two legs as it grew up

May 11th 2019

RVC Open Day

On Saturday the Royal Veterinary College opened its doors to prospective students at the College’s annual Open Day. More than 1,300 students attended and the DAWNDINOS team took the opportunity to showcase some of its research.

The research scientists on the DAWNDINOS stand explained how they go about studying  life on earth over 2 hundred million years ago. Using information from fossil bones, data from living birds and crocodiles, X-ray videos and state of the art digital techniques they get dinosaurs moving again and are making exciting new discoveries about the dawn of the dinosaurs!

…………..click here to see photos.

April 10th 2019




NBD DD for printingA great evening was had by all last Wednesday when the DAWNDINOS team hosted the ‘Night at the Vet College’ at  RVC’s Camden Campus to celebrate National Biomechanics Day, held worldwide on 10th April.

Over 400 visitors enjoyed an evening of talks, demos, interactive stands and many other activities about Triassic-Jurassic palaeobiology. They learned about the dawn of the dinosaurs and found out how research scientists study life on earth over two hundred million years ago!

……………… To see photos from the evening click here.

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Prof John Hutchinson

Prof John Hutchinson introduced the evening by giving an overview of the DAWNDINOS project in his opening talk, ‘Were dinosaurs special? Old questions meet new tools.’  Further talks followed later  from Dr Alex Dunhill, Lecturer in Palaeobiology at the University of Leeds on the mass extinctions and Professor Paul Barrett from the Natural History Museum on the humble origins that led to the dinosaur explosion.

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Prof Hutchinson delivers his talk ‘Were dinosaurs special? Old questions meet new tools’ in the Great Hall at Camden


Dr Krijn Michel talks to visitors about how we use living birds and crocodiles, X-ray videos and digital techniques to get dinosaurs moving again!


Dino cakes show artistic reconstructions of the eleven study animals in the DAWNDINOS project. (Artwork courtesy of John Conway)


Professor Friedl De Groote from KU Leuven, Belgium explains how muscle properties, gravity and load carrying, change the walking or running pattern of a computer model!


Prof Paul Barrett from the NHM and Dr David Button (pictured) show visitors how 3D models of dinosaur skulls generated from CT scans and 3D prints of dinosaur skulls  illustrate the early evolution of dinosaur feeding.


Bones are all we have left for many fossil species. Dr Andrew Cuff  shows they are full of information which we can use to reconstruct the animals and understand how they lived. Dr Peter Bishop explores how we use musculoskeletal models, the laws of physics, and mathematical optimization theory to simulate and reconstruct walking, running and other movements in dinosaurs.

………….A few more photos from the evening!


March 2019

Read  about DAWNDINOS latest paper in Dr Andrew Cuff’s blog spot!

………………….. and as the title of the post suggests we’ve been measuring muscle activity in birds and crocodiles!


The paper can be read for free here: https://rdcu.be/bHhEl


 APRIL 10th, 2019

……….. and celebrate National Biomechanics Day with us!

On Wednesday April 10th the DAWNDINOS team will host a special ‘Night at the Vet College’ at our Camden campus. The theme of the event includes Triassic-Jurassic palaeobiology in all its aspects and will also celebrate National Biomechanics Day which falls on this date.

As usual we will be conducting a post-mortem dissection of a “mystery animal” for a live audience at the event to demonstrate basic anatomy, physiology, pathology, adaptation and evolution. What animal will it be? Come and find out!

There will be demos, stands and many other activities going on and  talks  given by  John Hutchinson, Professor of Evolutionary Biomechanics at the RVC,  Dr Alex Dunhill, Lecturer in Palaeobiology, University of Leeds and Professor Paul Barrett, Department of Earth Sciences, Natural History Museum

Don’t miss this great evening of science and fun!

Please note this is an evening event (5.00pm -10pm) for secondary school students and above and will be a great opportunity to talk to the researchers on the DAWNDINOS project as well as UK palaeontologists and other experts.

To book your free place register here:


December 2018

Digital Modelling: The final challenge!

Fun was had by all at the last Dino Club of 2018!

Students used OpenSim software to simulate movement and the forces occurring within the body in digital models of two archosaurs: Batrachotomus and Coelophysis.
The challenge: Find a way for these archosaurs to remain balanced on their feet!

Students were given either an OpenSim model of Coelophysis (theropod) or Batrachotomus (rauisuchian) and had to find a posture that enabled them to remain stable without falling over.

Using the software they could visualise the location of the centre of mass and manipulate joint angles, then test the viability of the posture using forward dynamic simulations. Students had a great time with this and most were able to find a viable posture. The key thing they found out was that centre of mass has a crucial role in influencing leg posture which in turn holds the body in a stable position.

Video (below) of a successful Batrachotomus simulation.

………………… Sadly this was the last Dino Club for this season, but watch this space as we hope to be back same time, same place in 2019!

Digital Archosaurs at Dino Club!

A great time was had by all at Dino Club last week when students were introduced to modern-day approaches to bringing fossil species ‘back to life’ using digital techniques of data capture and modelling using ImageJ software. The students did a digital calculation of the centre of mass of a variety of basic shapes. Then they looked at how to reconstruct whole archosaurs and digitally flesh out archosaur skeletons and determine the location of the centre of mass.  Students could modify their reconstructions to see the effects of body shape on COM location.

This week (Wednesday 12th December) Professor John Hutchinson and Dr Peter Bishop will be hosting the last Dino Club session. Students will be introduced to the biomechanical modelling software OpenSim and use it to simulate movement and the forces occurring within the body in digital models of two archosaurs: Batrachotomus and Coelophysis. The challenge is simple: find a way for these archosaurs to remain balanced on their feet!

Key ring 1

Onslow students: This will be a fun, hands-on session and no one goes away empty- handed! There will be DAWNDINOS key rings for everyone – Be sure to come along to get yours!



DAWNDINOS Dino Club explores how paleontologists infer movement in extinct animals

Dr Andrew Cuff explains how changing the moment arm of the biceps muscle can make lifting objects easier

At another awesome afterschool Dino Club last week, students at Onslow St Audrey’s School explored how archosaurs moved.

Dr Bishop and Dr Cuff (postdoctoral researchers working on the DAWNDINOS project) explained how different archosaur joints articulated in different species and how this may have related to how they moved.

Students examined 3D printed fossil specimens, as well as the bones of modern birds and crocodilians, to see how the bones are connected and how different joints have different ranges of mobility. They had fun looking at bone models (archosaur and human) and examining muscle scarring on the 3D printed and real bones. Students also learned how muscles work in lever systems and did muscle leverage exercises with the human arm model and the bucket lift challenge.

Dino Club continues this week on Wednesday 5th December when students will be looking at how to reconstruct whole archosaurs digitally and determine the location of the centre of mass.

There will be heaps of fun with computers and science.

Onslow students: Come along and prepare to be amazed!

DAWNDINOS Dino Club Update!

Dr Krijn Michel shows students 3D printed bones at Dino Club anatomy session

At Dino Club last week students at Onslow St Audrey’s School in Hatfield were given an introduction to human and other animal anatomy by Dr Krijn Michel, a postdoctoral researcher from the DAWNDINOS team.

They learned about basic limb bones and their structure and then carried out a couple of fun activities. First they were given an assortment of real forelimb and hindlimb bones and had to identify and reassemble the limb bones (mainly humerus & radius/ulna and femur & tibia) with  aid from generic anatomical sketches.

In the second activity students were given 3D printed hindlimb bones from living and extinct archosaurs. They measured femur and tibia bone lengths with calipers, and using the bone length ratios they had to identify if that species of  archosaur was more cursorial or graviportal. This is similar to what paleontologists do in the real world and students had a great time!

This week (Wed 28th NovemberDr Andrew Cuff and Dr Peter Bishop will introduce students to how palaeontologists infer posture and gait in extinct animals, focusing on interpreting the function of joints based on their shapes and the actions and leverage of muscles.

Onslow students: there will be lots of hands-on activities, a quiz with great prizes….. and don’t forget: everyone that attends gets a free DAWNDINOS key ring!

DAWNDINOS first afterschool Dino Club at Onslow St Audrey’s School, Hatfield was a huge success!

Professor John Hutchinson kicked off the first Dino Club last week with an introduction to the dawn of the dinosaurs. He talked about Triassic-Jurassic biodiversity and mass extinctions and students were given an insight into what life was like in these eras.

Students using the paleobiodb.org  website

Students determined how groups of archosaurs (dinosaurs and kin) and synapsids (mammals + kin) changed from the Triassic period to the Jurassic period. Using the Paleobiology Database they plotted Triassic-Jurassic archosaur vs. synapsid diversity over time.

Students sorted photo cards of animals living in England approx. 2000 years ago

Students then turned to the Anthropocene to see which British mammals had gone extinct and why. They sorted photo cards of animals living in England around 2,000 years ago to determine which still remain and which are extinct (extirpated) here.

The hour-long session flew by and finished with a short quiz to summarise what students had learned. There were 2 lucky winners who received DAWNDINOS prizes and everyone that attended got a DAWNDINOS key ring and sticker!

This  week (Wed 21st Nov) we have another exciting Dino Club in store! Dr Krijn Michel will be exploring dinosaur anatomy and students will measure 3D printed archosaur bones and bones from living animals to look at ratios of bone segments to determine what kind of animal they are from.

Onslow students be sure to come along, the club starts at 3.30pm (until 4.30pm).       A fun time is to  be had by all!  Don’t forget…. everyone that attends gets a free DAWNDINOS key ring!



Professor Hutchinson introduces the DAWNDINOS  ‘Afterschool Dino Club’ to students at Onslow St Audrey’s School in Hatfield.

The DAWNDINOS team is exploring the exciting world of early dinosaurs with students from Onslow School at a special ‘Afterschool Dino Club’ starting Wednesday 14th November.

Excitement is growing as Prof Hutchinson gave an enthusiastic talk to Year 10 and Year 11 students at their assembly today. He introduced the club and gave a taster of what to expect.

Prof John Hutchinson talking to Year 10 and Year 11 students at Onslow School

From about 230 to 66 million years ago, dinosaurs roamed the earth and were among the most successful group of vertebrate animals ever to walk on the planet.  So why were dinosaurs so successful and why did they become so dominant across the Triassic-Jurassic boundary?

Over five weeks Professor Hutchinson and his team of researchers will look at life in the Triassic period, mass extinctions and ecosystems. Students will have the opportunity to learn about evolutionary diversification and adaptation, species that are under threat of extinction and climate change. There will be lots of fun activities too including an introduction to the anatomy of dinosaurs, how they moved and the opportunity to play with 3D printed dinosaur bones to figure out how their joints worked!

The DAWNDINOS team will explain how cutting-edge techniques are used in their research and have revolutionised the study of animal biomechanics and locomotion. They will explain 3D digital modelling and how the data from the living relatives of Triassic crocodiles and dinosaurs will help estimate muscle function and movement in these extinct animals.  Students will have the chance to play with computer software and flesh out skeletons of dinosaurs!

Students will also see how these world-leading experts have started to develop computer simulations to estimate how different species of extinct archosaurs – the group of animals that includes crocodiles, birds, their relatives and dinosaurs – might have moved!

If you are a student at Onslow school COME ALONG! These sessions are not to be missed. (They are for budding scientists and dinosaur enthusiasts alike!)

Watch this space as this site will be updated regularly with news about what Dino Club is doing!


October 2018

European Research Council  interviews Professor John Hutchinson for  Horizon ( The EU Research and Innovation Magazine)

ERC Horizon magazine has published ‘Models of dinosaur movement could help us build stronger robots and buildings‘ Read it to find out more about the ERC funded DAWNDINOS project!

September 2018

DAWNDINOS team gets Excited about Euparkeria!

Thanks to the Iziko Museums of South Africa    for allowing us to share these great photos of the important archosaur-cousin Euparkeria!

The DAWNDINOS team is looking forward to studying these fossils more in due course.

Skull and (right) forelimb shown here

Skull Euparkeria Capensis
Forelimb Euparkeria Capensis

August 2018

RVC summer school  students have fun at DAWNDINOS outreach event

On 29th August, thirty (Year 11) students on the RVC Summer School programme visited the Structure and Motion Lab and met the DAWNDINOS team to learn about our research. Feedback was fantastic with students commenting on how much they enjoyed the practical sessions and found learning about new technology interesting and fun. They thought the computer simulations of movement were particularly cool!

Click here to see photos.

Thank you to everyone involved.  An enjoyable morning was had by all!


July 2018

50 Students from the Sutton Trust meet the DAWNDINOS research team.

Last week the DAWNDINOS team today hosted an event for year 12 students from Sutton Trust summer school to learn about palaeontology, biomechanics, archosaurs and more!

Prof John Hutchinson explains how computer simulations are an important digital method for calculating the biomechanics of movement in animals.

Click here to see more photos!


June 2018

I Know Dino Podcast’ –  Professor John Hutchinson interview

I Know Dinosaurs 140618I Know Dinosaurs ‘The Big Dinosaur Podcast’ released its 185th episode this week which features an interview with Professor John Hutchinson talking about the DAWNDINOS project and other dino -related things, including his work on the T. rex Autopsy . It’s an interesting, informative and fun listen for scientists and dinosaur enthusiasts!  To hear the interview: https://iknowdino.com/procompsognathus-episode-185/

March 2018

Dr Andrew Cuff’s Argentinian Adventure

Dr Andrew Cuff has recently returned from an exciting three weeks of field work in the Patagonian region of Argentina. Here are some of the highlights and photos that he’d like to share from his trip!

Dr Peter Bishop joins the DAWNDINOS team

Peter1aDr Peter Bishop joins us as a Postdoctoral Researcher having recently gained his PhD in Evolutionary Biomechanics from Griffith University in Australia and we are delighted to welcome him to the DAWNDINOS team!  Peter has published/is publishing a lot on stem tetrapod biomechanics and anatomy and more recently on dinosaur/bird locomotor biomechanics. He is skilled in Matlab, experimental data, 3D imaging and modelling, simulation, maths, physics, palaeo and much more…

He will be a great asset to the team!     Read more about Peter…..

Dr Vivian Allen

Sadly we have said goodbye to Dr Vivian Allen who has left us for pastures new.  Viv has been a fantastic member of the team and made  a huge contribution to the DAWNDINOS research. He still remains a collaborator on the project so hasn’t gone completely!  We wish him well and every success with his future endeavours.

January 2018

Dawndinos team presents at SICB Conference 2018

Dr Andrew Cuff and Dr Krijn Michel gave presentations at the annual SICB conference (Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology)  in San Francisco last week. To find out more read their  abstracts here

December 2017 

Mussaurus moves in!

We have published our first paper from the DAWNDINOS project, on the early sauropodomorph dinosaur Mussaurus‘s forelimb muscles and motions. Learn more about it in this blog post here, and watch the moving Mussaurus arms in the video below!


October 2017  

‘Archosaurian Dawn’ From Sketches to Final Artwork

‘Archosaurian Dawn’ features as the headline banner on every page of this website  and is an evocative piece of paleoart which depicts some of the animal subjects in our study during the Triassic period.

It was produced by internationally renowned paleoartist Bob Nicholls who was delighted to be commissioned by the DAWNDINOS team. “I am extremely fortunate that my profession enables me to work with some of the world’s most respected scientists and centres for learning.  John Hutchinson and his team at the Royal Veterinary College are among the very best of the best at understanding animal anatomy and functional morphology of extinct animals, so it was a big thrill to work with them on a new Dawn Dinosaurs artwork.  Having one of my illustrations associated with the Royal Veterinary College is a great honour and the responsibility to accurately represent the scientific research in an attractive way weighed heavily on me during the rendering process.  As a result, I believe ‘Archosaurian Dawn’ is one of my best artistic accomplishments and I have John and his team to thank for that!”

Bob has kindly shared  with us the fascinating process he undertook in the production of Archosaurian Dawn from preliminary sketches to final artwork… Find out more here.


July 2017 

DAWNDINOS Collaboration with City of London Academy

CoLA jpegDuring June and July DAWNDINOS  teamed up with the City of London Academy (CoLA) on an exciting ‘science through art’ after-school outreach project. The project included a series of five ‘Dino Art Club’ sessions for students aged 11-18 years, led by art teacher Ben Frimet.

The project was closely linked to DAWNDINOS scientific research, dinosaur evolution, Triassic ecosystems and extinctions and  presented in a fun, interactive way through different art-based activities. Students used a variety of media to reconstruct their sketches of extinct archosaurs and their environment!

Over the five weeks the project also looked at species under threat of extinction, diversification and adaption as well as climate change issues that are relevant today. 

At the final session which took place on July 12th students were shown how to construct a museum-type exhibition and present their work with specimen tags akin to real museum exhibits. Students were presented with certificates for their excellent work. Professor John Hutchinson & Ben Frimet (Art teacher, CoLA) showcased the adaptive radiation wire mobile which will be exhibited in the Academy’s atrium. Read More……

Prel 6
Professor John Hutchinson and Ben Frimet (CoLA) with Adaptive radiation model

Opposable Thumb

Last weeks’ session looked at how humans are adapted for the things they do. One of our adaptations is our hand.

Humans, as well as monkeys, gorillas, and other primates, have a hand that can grasp objects.  Students were taught about adaption by disabling the opposable thumb then trying activities like tying a knot in string, writing, eating and making a clay pinch pot and they found it was hard!


Students  explored adaptive radiation after surviving a mass extinction.  Read more…..


Prof John Hutchinson shows the students artistic interpretations of the archosaurs in the DAWNDINOS study based on scientific research.


Dino/archosaur art sketches drawn by the students from text description of  the archosaurs in our study.


May 2017

Shiny new XROMM has just arrived at the RVC’s Structure and Motion Lab.






The DAWNDINOS team are checking and calibrating our new XROMM machine in preparation for experimental data collection.