From dinosaurs in Yorkshire to prehistoric Peterborough, the UK places where Jurassic giants roamed

A DINOSAUR footprint discovered on the Yorkshire coast has been described as a "real Jurassic giant."

Scientists say the discovery, the largest ever in the northern county, could have been left behind by a 30ft meat-eater, possibly a megalosaurus.


Archaeologist Marie Woods, who made the discovery, said: "I had originally gone to collect shellfish for dinner, but got completely distracted by this beast!"

Dinosaurs, despite living millions of years ago, have been in the news a lot recently. In January, a four-year-old girl found a prehistoric footprint in south Wales.

We've also seen Brit actress Kate Winslet bring to life the fascinating story of famed fossil hunter, Mary Anning, in the movie Ammonite.

The UK had the seventh biggest dino population in the world. The USA, home of the terrifying T-Rex, had the most, followed by Canada.

One expert reckons around 100 species of prehistoric beasts may have roamed these shores. Here, we take a look at some of the beasts that have been discovered in the UK, and where.

Megalosaurus

In 1824, a Megalosaurus, was found in Oxfordshire, by University of Oxford geologist William Buckland. He discovered the rare 165 million-year-old skeleton in a slate quarry in Stonesfield and donated it to the Oxford University Museum of Natural History.

Buckland gave it the name, meaning "great lizard."

Megalosaurus was part of the theropod group of dinosaurs, which ranged from the microraptor right up to the "tyrant lizard" Tyrannosaurus Rex.

It is the most commonly found dinosaur found in the UK and it's thought the most recent footprint, found by Marie Woods could have been laid by a megalosaurus.

Stegosaurus

Last year scientists from Edinburgh University found the first Stegosaurus footprints in Scotland. The "grapefruit-sized" markings were on the Isle of Skye and were believed to have been left there 170 million years ago, during the Middle Jurassic when stegosaurs were beginning to evolve and spread out.

Dr Stephn Brusatte, a palaeontologist at the University of Edinburgh, said: “Those proportions match up quite well to the hands and feet of stegosaurus skeletons.

"These footprints are the first evidence we have that this very major, very iconic group of dinosaurs lived in Scotland."

Stegosaurs have also been found in Gloucestershire, in the in the idyllic, celeb favourite of the Cotswolds.

Cetiosaurus

Cetiosaurus is part of the sauropod group of dinosaurs, distinguishable by their long neck and tail.

These herbivores also favoured the Cotswolds and lived between 167.70 and 164.70 million years ago. Cetiosaurus was the first and most complete sauropod discovered in England.

It's name means "whale lizard" because palaeontologist Sir Richard Owen mistakenly assumed it must be a marine creature.

Iguanodon

These were herbivores who lived in the Early Cretaceous (145 million years ago) and could grow to 10 metres long, weighing four-and-a-half tons. 

In 1834, during the excavation of a quarry in Maidstone, Kent, an iguanodon fossil bone was discovered. The quarry owner then found more of the skeleton, including rib fragments, vertebrae, limb bones and part of a tooth, making it the best specimen of the beast discovered at the time. 

Famous paleontologist Gideon Mantell bought the skeleton from the quarry owner for £25 and gifted it to the Natural History Museum where it remains. Maidstone is so proud of its dinosaur history that it has an iguanodon in its crest. 

Last year, an iguanodon tail was discovered on the Isle of Wight, once named by the Natural History Museum as the UK's dinosaur capital.The Royal Mint commemorated this ancient resident in 2020 by issuing a 50p featuring an Iguanodon.

Baryonyx

These fish hunters would wade into shallow water and use their long claws to hook in their food.

Fossil hunter William Walker uncovered a giant baryonyx claw, measuring 31cm long, in the Weald Clay Formation, Surrey, in 1983. A team of palaeontologists from the Natural History Museum investigated and soon dug up one of the most complete meat-eating dinosaurs ever found in the UK. 

Baryonyx lived in the Early Cretaceous and prayed on Iguanodon. 

Dr Susie Maidment, a dinosaur researcher at the NHM, said: “The interpretation of this enormous claw on the hand is that they used it a bit like a bear. They think Baryonyx might have stood on the banks of rivers and hooked fish out using it.”

Ichthyosaur

Ichthyosaur isn’t technically a dinosaur but you still wouldn’t want to meet one while swimming around in the British seaside as scientists agree it was one of the largest animals ever. It lived during the Late Triassic period. 

Famed fossil hunter Mary Anning, whose life is celebrated in the new movie Ammonite starring Kate Winslet, was the first to discover ichthyosaur skeleton, in Lyme Regis, Dorset.

Recently, a jaw bone was discovered in Somerset in 2016 by fossil collector Paul de la Salle, while a dog dug up an ichthyosaur fossil in the same county in January, 2020. 


Mr de la Salle contacted the University of Manchester's palaeontology department, and said: “Initially, the bone just looked like a piece of rock but, after recognising a groove and bone structure, I thought it might be part of a jaw from an ichthyosaur and immediately contacted ichthyosaur experts.”

A 205 million-year-old jaw bone, thought to be of a giant ichthyosaur, was also found at Lilstock, Somerset, in 2018.

In 2014, a group of palaeontologists from the Oxford Clay Working Group dug up a 5.5 metre long-necked marine reptile atMust Farm quarry near Peterborough, which they nicknamed Eve.

It was found to be a plesiosaur, a reptile with large flippers which, although not a dinosaur, ruled the oceans for a hundred million years and died out at the same time as dinosaurs.

Thecodontosaurus

Another herbivore, this sauropod roamed in the Late Triassic – 200 million years ago –  and despite preferring a hotter climate, has been found in Bristol.

Back then, England resembled a tropical archipelago.

The bodies of dinosaurs, lizards and mammals were washed along the rivers during rainy seasons, with some finding their way into caves, where they became fossilised. 

Bones embedded in limestone were discovered in Durdham Downs, north of Bristol, by quarry workers in 1834. Two years later it was given its name, meaning “tooth lizard,” making it the fourth dinosaur to be named. 

The Bristol Dinosaur Project, run by the University of Bristol, delivers presentations to school children about the amazing findings.

Dracoraptor hanigani

This dinosaur species was only discovered in 2014 when brothers Nick and Rob Hanigan found an unusual fossil at Lavernock Point, south Wales.

The remains, found at the foot of a cliff, were thought to come from the earliest known dinosaur of the Jurassic Period, making it the first Jurassic dinosaur fossil to be found in Wales.

It belongs to the theropod group of two-legged meat eaters that includes T-Rex, and was named after the pair who found it.

Dr Dave Martill, who co-authored Dracoraptor's first scientific description, said: "This animal was small, slim and agile. It was probably only around 70 centimetres tall and two metres long – the size of a leopard or a cheetah maybe. It also had a long tail to help it balance."

The fossil was donated to the National Museum of Wales.

A 220 million-year-old footprint was discovered in Barry, south Wales, January by four-year-old Lily Wilder.

Experts haven't identified which dinosaur left it but Cindy Howells, Palaeontology Curator for the National Museum Wales, described it as "the best specimen ever found on this beach."

She told The Standard: “It’s one of the best-preserved examples from anywhere in the UK and will really aid palaeontologists to get a better idea about how these early dinosaurs walked,” she said.

Lily's mum Sally said of the 10cm long print: "We weren’t even sure it was real." It has been given to Amgueddfa Cymru, the National Museum Wales.


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