Britain’s most Complete Dinosaur Found to Date ready to go on Display
The most complete dinosaur fossil ever to be found in the United Kingdom is about to go on display at the Bristol museum. The fossil is of a Scelidosaurus, an early armoured dinosaur that dates from the Jurassic.
This magnificent specimen of this plant-eater, is nearly complete, a rare find indeed when it is considered that in comparison to other ornithopods these animal’s remains are very scarce in the fossil record. The lack of fossil evidence relating to these creatures could be for a number of reasons, perhaps these herbivores were associated with environments in which the likelihood of fossil preservation would be low, dry, upland areas for example. The small number of fossils could also be due simply to the fact that compared with other megafauna around at the time, these types of dinosaurs only made up a small proportion of the animal community. Such relatively rare animals would be statistically less likely to be fossilised. Certainly, there is speculation as to the habitat of these armoured dinosaurs, with scelidosaurs being associated with marine deposits, the exceptional quality of the specimen going on display has provided scientists with lots of new data to assist in our understanding of these dinosaurs.
To read more about scelidosaurs: Scelidosaurus – a uniquely British dinosaur.
In pictures, the snout is facing to the left, with the animal’s eye socket in a direct line between the tip of the fingers on the researcher’s right hand. The teeth can clearly be seen in the photograph, they are leaf shaped and the fossilised wear pattern indicate that Scelidosaurus had a peculiar feeding habit. The plant food, probably low lying ferns was crushed in the mouth before being swallowed. Perhaps not the most energy efficient way of eating and not nearly as sophisticated a process such as the feeding of the later ceratopsians, iguanodonts and the hadrosaurs. This relatively primitive chewing process could perhaps explain why there are so few fossil skeletons of this type of dinosaur about.
Although permineralised, specimens of almost complete skeletons such as this are extremely rare and delicate. It is interesting to note that the researcher is wearing rubber gloves when handling the fossil. Our fingers tend to be acidic and this can damage the surface of fossils, after all many of them are preserved in limestone and this is dissolved by acidic substances. It is best not to handle fossils a great deal, or indeed to pick up a specimen by the fossil element itself, pick it up by the surrounding matrix if there is any present. Fossils like this Scelidosaurus need to be looked after, they stopped making them around 175 million years ago!