British Polacanthid Dinosaurs – Book Review

A Review of the Book “British Polacanthid Dinosaurs”

There is a group of enigmatic armoured dinosaurs that are not likely to appear in the second instalment of “Jurassic World” scheduled to arrive in cinemas in two years time, Sir David Attenborough will not be dedicating a television documentary to them any time soon, these prehistoric animals are not well known by the general public, but to anyone with an interest in palaeontology and dinosaurs in particular, the polacanthids are perhaps some of the most fascinating and mysterious vertebrates ever to evolve.  These plant-eating dinosaurs are the subject of a new book written by Dr. William T. Blows and published by Siri Scientific Press and it brings research on the Polacanthidae right up to date.

British Polacanthid Dinosaurs – 150 Years of Armoured Dinosaur History and Research

Written by William T. Blows.

Written by William T. Blows.

Picture Credit: Siri Scientific Press

To order a copy of this excellent book: British Polacanthid Dinosaurs Available from Siri Scientific Press

 The fossils of polacanthid dinosaurs have been found in Lower Cretaceous strata from the UK, Germany and Spain, as well as Upper Jurassic and Lower Cretaceous aged strata from the USA.  A number of different genera have been identified, but apart from a couple of notable exceptions (Gargoyleosaurus and Gastonia from the United States), fossil material associated with these reptiles is relatively incomplete.  Dr. Blows takes the reader on a journey of exploration starting with a thoughtfully written general overview of the armoured dinosaurs and where the polacanthids fit in to the dinosaur family tree, before moving on to provide a history of armoured dinosaur discoveries from England.

Dean Lomax and Nobumichi Tamura did much to raise the profile of British dinosaurs in the excellent “Dinosaurs of the British Isles” (which is also available from Siri Scientific Press), but it still might take the general reader by surprise to discover that 130 million years ago, large, spiky behemoths roamed around what was to become Sussex and the Isle of Wight.  With a nod in the direction towards the more complete polacanthid remains from the likes of the mysteriously named Yellow Cat Member of the Lower Cedar Mountain Formation (eastern Utah), this group of dinosaurs are very much associated with Britain and specifically southern England.

An Illustration of a Typical Polacanthid Dinosaur

A drawing of the heavily armoured polacanthid Gastonia.

A drawing of the heavily armoured polacanthid Gastonia.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

A Well-Crafted Dinosaur Book

From the very first page through to the comprehensive reference and index section, this book has obviously been a labour of love.  Dr. Blows imparts a tremendous amount of information, but his writing style enables the general reader to follow and to appreciate the significance of the points being made.  Having provided an overview of the history of armoured dinosaur discovery in England, and it is 150 years since the genus Polacanthus was erected, the author then dedicates individual chapters to documenting the fossil evidence for different parts of the body of polacanthids.  Starting with the skull, Dr. Blows documents the evidence helping the reader to gain an insight into how our knowledge regarding these quadrupeds has changed.  The longest chapter in this section of the book is dedicated to the dermal bones, that amour that unites all the Thyreophoran dinosaurs (Stegosaurs, Ankylosaurs, Nodosaurs and of course the Polacanthidae).  These dinosaurs literally bristled with amour, spikes, scutes, osteoderms, bony extrusions and of course, that bizarre structure – the sacral shield.  The pelvis and lower back of Polacanthus was protected by a bony shield, that in the best preserved specimen is over ten millimetres thick and more than one metre square in size.  This anatomical feature is unique to the polacanthids and along with the ferocious spikes that even ran down to the tip of the tail, they would have acted as a formidable deterrent against attack from a meat-eating dinosaur.

The Amazing Sacral Shield of Polacanthus (P. foxii)

Dorsal view (top down) of the sacral shield of Polacanthus.

Dorsal view (top down) of the sacral shield of Polacanthus.

Picture Credit: Natural History Museum with annotation by Everything Dinosaur

Worldwide Polacanthidae

Later chapters are dedicated to polacanthid fossil finds from outside the British Isles and tie in with the evolutionary origins of these dinosaurs (sometime in the Jurassic).  This provides an opportunity to view some excellent pictures of mounted specimens, dinosaurs such as Mymoorapelta and Gastonia.  The final chapter brings the reader right up to date and proposes a new taxon for the dinosaur previously known as Polacanthus rudgwickensis.  Dr. Blows carefully lays out the evidence and proposes a revision of the fossil material collected from a brickworks close to the village of Rudgwick, Sussex.  The fossils represent an individual, one that was almost a third as big again as Polacanthus foxii.  In addition, the bones represent a much more robust and stocky animal, this has led to the establishment of a new taxon, the town of Horsham, close to the original fossil finds, has its very own dinosaur – Horshamosaurus.  These Polacanthus fossils were originally studied by Dr. Blows, he concludes his book by taking the reader through the steps that led to a revision of the evidence and the establishment of the newest genus to be added to the Polacanthidae.

Nearly 200 Tables, Diagrams and Beautiful Full Colour Pictures in the Book

The book features lots of colour plates showing Polacanthus fossil material.

The book features lots of colour plates showing Polacanthus fossil material.

Picture Credit: Sir Scientific Press

All in all this is an excellent book, ideal as a Christmas gift for the anyone with an interest in fossils, especially those from the British Isles.

Highly recommended.

To order a copy and for further details on “British Polacanthid Dinosaurs” visit: Siri Scientific Press

Great British Regional Museums

We are fortunate in this country to have some amazing regional museums.  The residents of Bexhill in East Sussex might be quite surprised to learn that some spines, osteoderms and other elements representing dermal armour from a Polacanthus were found close to their town.  Photographs of these fossils are included in the book.  These form part of the Bexhill Museum dinosaur fossil collection.  We are so lucky to have such wonderful local museums run by dedicated and enthusiastic staff, we would recommend a visit to Bexhill Museum (Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex).

For further information on Bexhill Museum: Visit Bexhill Museum

To read more about Horshamosaurus: A New British Dinosaur is Announced

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