Did you know, Bristol has its very own dinosaur? Thecodontosaurs antiquus (the ancient socket toothed lizard) was discovered in 1834 by Samuel Stutchbury in a quarry on Durdham Downs (now known as Quarry Steps, a SSSI that is a tiny sliver of the original quarry) and became the 5th dinosaur ever described; it has not since been found anywhere else in the world. Thecodontosaurs antiquus dates from over 200 million years ago back when Bristol was an archipeligo of islands and shallow, tropical seas. In 2011, the Bristol Dinosaur celebrated 175 years of holding its species name.
Some the specimens from quarry were housed in the Bristol Geological Museum. In November 1940, the Blitz struck Bristol hard. Huge areas were bombed out including the strip of buildings at the top of Park Street. Many of the collections were lost, either directly to the bombing or the clean-up crews after; fortunately some of the bones were housed in a cave in the Avon Gorge alongside some precious paintings, safely away from the threat of bombers. About half of the original Thecodontosaurus specimens were rescued and are housed in the current Bristol Museum & Art Gallery
In the 1970s more bones from the dinosaur were found at a quarry in Tytherington, South Gloucestershire when over 4 tonnes of material was collected. Remmert Schouten at the University of Bristol works a preparator thanks to funding received from the Leverhulme trust. Since his appointment the material has been worked on for scientific purposes and teaching students about preparation techniques. In 2009, the Heritage Lottery Fund awarded £294,000 for 3 years of funding to improve the lab facilities, hire another preparator, and pay for a learning officer to increase public knowledge of this unique specimen. The project has been so successful since receiving the funding that over 11,000 school children have had workshops delivered by the learning officer. Many postgraduate students from the School of Earth Sciences have also been trained to deliver the workshops in schools and become STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) Ambassadors. It in fact the outreach work has lead to the School of Earth Sciences winning the Best STEM University Department of 2011 in the West.
|Some of the primary aged students with various activities from the Bristol Dinosaur Project. The outreach activities include are handling specimens, a life sized jigsaw puzzle with replica bones and a talk.|
If you are interested in getting involved or want to know more please check us out at Bristol Dinosaur Project website (www.bristoldinosaurproject.co.uk). We are running a competition for artists to show us what they think Thecodontosaurus looked like when it was alive. Otherwise look out for us at various events around Bristol, be it schools, museums, Festival of Nature, dinosaur days at the Arnos Vale etc. where we will be giving workshops.
Andrew Cuff, Bristol Dinosaur Project