Being Associated with the Wrong Marine Reptile

As team members from Everything Dinosaur travel around they sometimes get the chance to visit a natural history museum whilst out on their adventures.  There are many splendid museums in this country and elsewhere in the world and it is great fun looking at the various fossils held within the collections.  Occasionally, we come across an exhibit that has inaccurate or out of date information, mistakes do occur and we are always appreciative of the time and trouble curators take over their particular charges.

One such anomaly can be seen in the Fossil marine reptiles gallery in the Natural History Museum London.  There are some spectacular marine reptile fossils on display, Ichthyosaurs, Pliosaurs and their close cousins the Plesiosaurs.  The fossil specimens (most of them are casts) are truly astonishing and this museum (quite rightly in our opinion), does much to acknowledge the contribution of Mary Anning to the nascent science of palaeontology and her work excavating and describing fossils of ancient Jurassic marine vertebrates preserved in the cliffs on the Dorset coast around Lyme Regis.

Information about Mary Anning and her work can be found on various information boards on display.  However, one thing that has always puzzled us is that there is a prominent information board about Mary located on the Rhomaleosaurus cramptoni cast, Mary Anning had nothing to do with this specimen, its discovery or research into it.  In fact, she died about a year before this specimen was found.

Wonderful Marine Reptile Exhibits – but Nothing to Do with Mary Anning

Mary Anning died before this fossil was discovered.

Mary Anning died before this fossil was discovered.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur/Rebor

The specimen in the photograph is not a fossil but a cast, a copy of the fossil which was made very probably in the late 19th Century by the American Henry Augustus Ward, who set up one of the world’s first fossil dealers and provider of museum replicas and casts.  The animal that the cast represents is called Rhomaleosaurus cramptoni.  It is pronounced Row-ma-lee-oh-sore-us.  It is mounted on the wall of the fossil marine reptiles gallery in the Natural History Museum, but we are aware of similar casts of the same fossil specimen in Monash University (Victoria, Australia), Cornell University, (New York USA), University of Illinois,  and the Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution (Bath, Somerset).

The actual fossil is part of the National Museum of Ireland (Natural History), Dublin, Ireland, we don’t think it is on current display.  The code for the specimen is NMING F8785 (all significant fossils are given a unique identifier, this helps when searching for information on a particular specimen).

A Model of the Fearsome Rhomaleosaurus cramptoni

A super model of a marine reptile.

A super model of a marine reptile.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Rhomaleosaurus means “strong lizard” an appropriate name for this fearsome predator that grew to more than six metres in length and might have weighed as much as 1,000 kilogrammes.

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