Saturday, 7 February 2009

The most complete British dinosaur

The most complete dinosaur ever found in this country is on display in Bristol museum. The scelidosaurus, a four metre long armoured herbivorous dinosaur, was found in a mud slip over a five year period by David Sole, a professional collector. It was acid-prepared by David Cistun, a local, professional preparator. Skin and soft tissue is preserved. Only a small portion of the fossil is missing, which could have fallen into the sea before the rest of the skeleton was located.

Why terrestrial dinosaurs should be preserved in (albeit it shallow) marine sediments is under debate. The most convincing explanation is that this, and a few other scelidosaurs that have been found over the last century, were washed out to sea and drowned by a tsunami. Some fossilised semi-digested food in the animal’s gullet, which may have been vomited during the animal’s death throes, may support this theory.

The skeleton has been examined by many of the country’s leading experts, as well as others from America and Japan. Although David Sole is a professional collector, he has refused all offers to sell the dinosaur and hopes one day it will be a centrepiece in a display of West Dorset fossils. In the meantime, a cast of the fossil is on display at the Jurassic Coast Heritage Centre by the coastal car park at Charmouth, Dorset.

By Simon Cohen, reproduced by kind permission of Rock’n’Gem magazine.