Fossil Discovery Shows Dinosaurs can Still Surprise

A team of palaeontologists from Manchester University in collaboration with an independent researcher have published a scientific paper in an on line academic journal describing a tail bone from a dinosaur found in Yorkshire.  Yorkshire may be a county synonymous with puddings, tea and cricket but the North Yorkshire coast is very important to palaeontologists and geologists.  The strata exposed at Whitby and Ravenscar for example, dates from the Middle Jurassic, it is roughly the same geological age as the famous rock formations to be found on England’s “Jurassic Coast” around the Lyme Regis area.

The fossil bone had eroded out of a cliff close to the Abbey at Whitby, it represents a tail bone (caudal vertebrae) from a long-necked dinosaur, a group of dinosaurs called Sauropods.  Diplodocus, Apatosaurus and Brontosaurus are typical examples of this plant-eating dinosaur Sub-order.

A Close Up View of the Yorkshire Sauropod Fossil Material

Although only a single bone, scientists have identified it as a tail bone from a Sauropod.

Although only a single bone, scientists have identified it as a tail bone from a Sauropod.

Picture Credit: PLOS One with additional annotation from Everything Dinosaur

The shape of the bone, such as the distinct keel (arrowed) seen on the bottom of the vertebra, has allowed scientists to state that this fossil very probably represents a new species of British dinosaur.  Plant rootlet fossils and remains of freshwater molluscs discovered in the surrounding matrix enabled the research team to locate the horizon within the rock formation where the fossil probably came from.  The fossil is around 176 million years old, making this specimen Britain’s oldest known Sauropod fossil.

An Illustration of the New Sauropod Dinosaur

Primitive long-necked dinosaur from Yorkshire.

Primitive long-necked dinosaur from Yorkshire.

Picture Credit: Jason Poole/University of Manchester

During the Middle Jurassic, this part of northern England was part of an extensive coastal plain.  This low-lying area was marshy and crossed by large rivers.  The sandstone strata has preserved few fossilised bones and teeth of dinosaurs but a number of fossilised dinosaur footprints have been preserved.  Yorkshire was once the UK’s “Jurassic World” and this fossil, believed to be around 176 million years old represents the oldest long-necked dinosaur fossil described to date from Britain.

A spokesperson from Everything Dinosaur commented:

“This scientific paper only goes to show that palaeontologists are learning new things all the time about dinosaurs, even ones that once roamed around Britain.”

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