Museum expert uncovers ‘hopping’ dinosaur!

L-R Lucy Wenger (Skilled horticulturist), Dr Gabriella Gilkes (Eden Scientific Project Manager) and Dr David Legg (Museum Research Fellow) Credit: Emily Whitfield-Wicks

L-R Lucy Wenger (Skilled horticulturist), Dr Gabriella Gilkes (Eden Scientific Project Manager) and Dr David Legg (Museum Research Fellow)
Credit: Emily Whitfield-Wicks

This was our joint April Fool story with the Eden Project!

Experts from the Museum have been called in to help with an exceptional discovery, found lurking in a rainforest… in Cornwall!

eden-logo horiz 2Staff at the Eden Project were installing a new display in the Rainforest Biome, when they noticed that the ground was surprisingly uneven. Digging deeper, skilled horticulturist Lucy Wenger uncovered what seemed to be a pair of three-toed footprints. Wondering what could possibly be responsible for these marks, the team decided to approach the palaeontologists here at the Museum of Natural History.

We often get emails and calls from people who believe they’ve found something extra-special, so at first the experts were a little sceptical, but when the Eden Project sent through measurements and photographs of their finds, their discovery started to look rather familiar.

Megalosaurus prints on the Museum lawn

Megalosaurus prints on the Museum lawn

Regular visitors to the Museum will know that we have a trackway of dinosaur footprints marching across our lawn. These casts were taken from the famous fossils discovered just up the road from Oxford, at Ardley Quarry, in 1997. It was staff from the Museum who identified the Jurassic dinosaur Megalosaurus as the likely culprit for the Ardley prints. Could this new pair of prints have been made by something similar? The Museum’s Palaeontologist Research Fellow Dr David Legg decided to jump on a train heading south west.

Dr David Legg carefully reveals the footprints with Dr Jo Elworthy (Eden Scientist)  Credit: Emily Whitfield-Wicks

Dr David Legg carefully reveals the footprints with Dr Jo Elworthy (Eden Scientist)
Credit: Emily Whitfield-Wicks

Today we’re excited to reveal that David has confirmed that the footprints were indeed created by Megalosaurus, a carnivorous dinosaur native to Southern England during the Middle Jurassic period. But there’s something a little unusual about this pair of prints…

Dr Legg said: “This is a truly remarkable find. Not only is there no doubt in our minds that the prints are those of a Megalosaurus, but they almost certainly represent a new species altogether.

Artist's impression of Megalosaurus

Artist’s impression of Megalosaurus

“With track marks like these you would normally expect to see variation between the right and left prints but these two are very similar, if not identical. This suggests to me that this particular specimen preferred to hop everywhere or maybe even had just one leg.”

This is a revolutionary discovery and will alter the understanding of dinosaur movement for palaeontologists across the world. Dr Legg adds, “This is the first time we have found evidence of Megalosaurus this far to the west, and we are proposing that the creature be named Megalosaurus cornwallis-prilaeno.”

To find out more about this truly incredible discovery, watch this short report put together by the Eden Project.

Today, the Biome team are setting up a cordon around the 74 cm x 57cm prints in the West Africa section to protect them from possible accidental damage by the thousands of visitors who come to the Project every week. They are also checking the surrounding area for more prints or possibly even bones from the Megalosaurus. Of course, we’ll keep you fully up to date with the story, as it emerges.

Rachel Parle, Interpretation and Education Officer

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