Remembering Norway and its first Dinosaur
Many people believe that we now know just about everything we are ever going to know about dinosaurs. This time of year the end of school summer trips are being planned by teachers and many schools will have the opportunity to tour their regional museum and no doubt the fossil galleries and the dinosaur exhibits will prove to be very popular. Museum curators and directors up and down the country will be finalising their plans for the summer events programme. I am sure a number of dinosaur themed events will be be taking place all aimed at satisfying the curiousity of children and adults alike.
However, in reality we still know very little about the Mesozoic (the Age of Reptiles 248 million to 65 million years ago) and the creatures and plants that inhabited these ancient times. True, we have some spectacular fossils, including dinosaur fossils, many of which will form the central theme for the museum programmes and the school trips, but despite the very best efforts of the scientific community, our understanding of dinosaurs and their world is still very fragmentary. Take Norway for example, this very beautiful country with its majestic fjords may be renowned for its geology (along with herrings, oil, dodgy Eurovision songs, Vikings and woolly jumpers), but until recently no dinosaur remains had been unearthed on the country of Norway itself.
In May 2006 the first ever dinosaur discovery was made in Norway. Scientists drilling for oil at the Snorre offshore field in the North Sea discovered a fossil of a crushed knucklebone of a large dinosaur in a sandstone rock core. Palaeontologists identified the bone to belong to a Plateosaurus, which probably died as it migrated across a huge dry, sandy plain, criss-crossed with rivers approximately 210 million years ago. As Plateosaurus lived in herds there are probably many more fossils awaiting discovery deep beneath Norway’s seas. The fossil was found in sediments 1.4 miles down, making this the deepest ever fossil find as well as Norway’s first dinosaur. This is a truly remarkable discovery and one, like many scientific discoveries which was down to pure luck.
The Plateosaurus genus is relatively well known with many fossils having been excavated across Western Europe. The most famous specimens of Plateosaurus fossils is found at Trössingen in southern Germany. It was a large herbivorous animal of the sub-order Sauropodomorpha. Although, there is still some doubt as to how closely related this animal was to the true sauropods that were to evolve later. Seeing a herd of these animals on the move would have been an awesome sight as they could weigh up to 4 Tonnes and many were up to 8 metres long. I think two species have been described to date.
There are not many models of Triassic dinosaurs available, certainly there are only a few Plateosaurus dinosaur models, to see Everything Dinosaur’s model range: Dinosaur Models and Toys.
Plateosaurus (which means “flat lizard” was named and described by the German palaeontologist Hermann von Meyer in 1837. It was one of the very first dinosaurs to be named and described. It even pre-dates the word “dinosaur”, at the time Plateosaurus was formally described the word dinosaur had not been used yet and the leading thinkers of the day were still unsure how to classify these giant reptiles.
Still that means that we have only known about Plateosaurus for 170 years and although he may be a bit of an “old boy” when it comes to his scientific description, Plateosaurus is still able to surprise us by turning up in a North Sea oil drill core.
There is a lot more to learn about dinosaurs…