Remembering January 1983 – The Discovery of Baryonyx

By | January 15th, 2011|Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|2 Comments

The Start of the Baryonyx Story – January 1983

It seems such a long time ago now, Baryonyx, a strange, fish-eating theropod from the Barremian faunal stage of the Cretaceous (125 million years ago) first came to light in January 1983.

Baryonyx, a large, fish/meat-eater with its huge thumb claws and distinctive narrow jaws, lined with many more teeth than a T. rex.  With individuals growing to exceed lengths of over 10 metres this was a formidable beastie of the Early Cretaceous of Europe.

In January 1983, William Walker, an amateur fossil collector was exploring a clay pit in Surrey (southern England) when he discovered a huge fossil claw bone and other fossil material.  Helped by some friends, he was able to extract a number of fossils and after the Natural History Museum in London was contacted, a full scale excavation took place on the site.

Regarded as one of the most important Cretaceous dinosaur discoveries made in Europe over the last fifty years, almost 70% of an individual Baryonyx’s remains were removed from the clay pit.  So complete was this skeleton that the scientists and researchers were able to gain a great deal of information about the Spinosaurid family from this one specimen.

An Illustration of Baryonyx showing Scale Size (Collecta Baryonyx Dinosaur Model)

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Baryonyx was formally named in 1986 (Charig and Milner).  The type specimen was named Baryonyx walkeri in honour of the amateur fossil hunter who had first made the discovery.

We have been involved in a number of projects to make Baryonyx models, to view a model range that includes Baryonyx and a number of other “British” prehistoric animals:

CollectA Dinosaurs and other dinosaur models: CollectA Age of Dinosaurs Prehistoric Life Models.

Although, other Baryonyx fossils are known, for example some material including teeth from the Isle of Wight, and other elements including skull material from Spain, the Baryonyx specimen from the Surrey clay pit, found twenty eight years ago, remains the only near complete skeleton known.  In fact, this specimen remains the most complete individual, large theropod fossil ever found in western Europe.