Jurassic World – Come and see the World’s Biggest Bite!

Jurassic-WorldJurassic World has been released this weekend – and if you’ve enjoyed the film, now come and see the enormous 150million year old skull of the Weymouth Bay Pliosaur at Dorset County Museum!

The fossil bones of this pliosaur skull were recovered by amateur fossil collector Kevan Sheehan between 2003 and 2008, as they were washed out of a landslide on the coast in Weymouth Bay. The largest piece weighed over 80 kg, and the skull itself is a massive 2.4 metres long. Featured recently as one of National Geographic’s Top 10 Biggest Beasts, the pliosaur was the ‘T Rex of the ocean’, an 18metre long ferocious predator of the seas. Known as ‘The World’s Biggest Bite’, the Weymouth Bay Pliosaur would have been capable of biting the biggest great white shark alive today clean in half.

The Dorset specimen is one of the most complete and best preserved skulls ever found, and as a result it has provided new insights into our understanding of how these enormous animals evolved.

Richard Edmonds and Kevan Sheehan with the Pliosaur skull © DCM

Richard Edmonds and Kevan Sheehan with the Pliosaur skull © DCM

Since its discovery, hundreds of hours have been spent carrying out a detailed analysis and cleaning away the rock to expose the detail of the fossil underneath. Alongside this conservation work an intensive programme involved the Jurassic Coast team and Dorset County Museum working together to produce an exciting, interactive display showcasing the fossil with the theme ‘The World’s Biggest Bite’. Mounted dramatically on a specially constructed plinth that shows the jaws in an awe-inspiring open-mouthed position, the story of the fossil is interpreted through a series of film presentations accompanied by a life-size model of the pliosaur’s head.

Dr. Jon Murden, Director said “It’s amazing to see this skull up close in the Museum – standing next to it you can really appreciate its enormous size, and get a feel for the terrifying predator it once was.”

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Jurassic Coast Creatures – Build a Brickosaur! Events

Free LEGO DinosaurFrom August there are new displays and inter-actives for you to discover and enjoy in a string of museums stretching from Swanage to Sidmouth.

Why not start your own Jurassic Journey and find out more about the strange and sometimes scary forms of life that inhabited our world millions of years ago?

Dorset County Museum in Dorchester is creating a brand new display in its Jurassic Coast Gallery showcasing some remarkable 140 million year old footprints.

Skip across to Swanage Museum to play at being a palaeontologist and piece together some real dinosaur bones to produce part of an Iguanodon.

Pass over the Purbecks and head for Portland Museum to meet the mighty Megalosaurus and find out more about the island’s unique geology.

If you dip into Devon, you can dig for fossils in Sidmouth Museum’s children’s activity area and discover the new display on the remarkable story of the Red Rocks.

A short hop away is the picturesque Fairlynch Museum at Budleigh Salterton, with fresh and fun displays on mountains, rivers and the ancient reptiles that once roamed the landscape.

BUILD A BRICKOSAUR!!!!

Weird and wonderful creatures once roamed the lands and seas which now form the Jurassic Coast. Their fossil remains are displayed in museums across Dorset and Devon.

Ichthyosaur

At Lyme Regis Museum you can find the incredible Ichthyosaur, a huge and predatory “fish lizard” which cruised through the sea at a staggering 36km/h.

PlesiosaurBridport Museum is home to a super streamlined Plesiosaur which used its
serpent-like body and crocodile teeth to hunt its prey in warm Jurassic seas.

Megalosaur

The frightening footprints of the mighty meat-eating Megalosaur can be found at Dorset County Museum in Dorchester.

Rhynchosaur

 

 

 

And in the museums at Sidmouth and Budleigh Salterton there are the curious remains of the strange and ugly Rhynchosaur which thrived 240 million years ago when Devon was a desert close to the equator.

This summer you can build these dinosaurs and marine monsters from LEGO® bricks and create your own pint-sized Jurassic World by taking part in workshops being held in museums across Dorset and Devon.

The Jurassic Coast Museums Partnership have teamed up with LEGO® artists from British company Bright Bricks and the Dorset based artist Darrell Wakelam to produce a range of holiday activities guaranteed to entertain and inspire.

Choose from the lists below and be sure to book in advance to avoid disappointment.

At each workshop children should be accompanied by an adult. Suitable for children aged 7-11 years.

Every child coming to a LEGO® event gets to take home a FREE LEGO® kit – not available in the shops!

Tickets £10.00. Book in advance to secure a place by contacting the museum where the workshop is taking place.

Don’t forget to find the real thing whilst you’re visiting the museums. They’re packed with lots of fantastic fossils for you to discover including beautiful brittle stars, terrifying teeth and even dinosaur poo!

BRICKOSAUR WORKSHOP EVENTS
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– Wednesday 30 July 2014

Create a Jurassic World for a Prehistoric Plesiosaur at Bridport Museum

  • Workshop 1 : 10.00am – 12.00pm
  • Workshop 2 : 2.00pm – 4.00pm

Bridport Museum, 25 South Street, Bridport, Dorset, DT6 3NR.

From the Romans to ropemaking. Discover Bridport’s unique history in a Tudor building. Check website  for opening times – Admission: FREE

Tel: 01308 458703 – Website: www.bridportmuseum.co.uk __________________________________________________________

 – Friday 22 August 2014

Create a Jurassic World for an Ichthyosaur at Lyme Regis Museum

  • Workshop 1 : 10.00am – 12.00pm
  • Workshop 2 : 2.00pm – 4.00pm

Lyme Regis Museum, Bridge Street, Lyme Regis DT7 3QA.

Jurassic Coast fossils, Lyme’s maritime past and famous literary figures are featured in this beautiful old building overlooking the sea. Check website for admission prices and opening times

Tel: 01297 443370 – Website: www.lymeregismuseum.co.uk
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MegaLEGOsaurus

See the Megalosaurus created by Ed Diament of Bright Bricks and on display at the Dorset County Museum

– Tuesday 12 August

Make a giant Megalosaur Mosaic at the Dorset County Museum with certified LEGO® professionals, Bright Bricks and take home your very own model

  • Workshop 1 : 10.30am – 12.00pm
  • Workshop 2 : 1.30pm – 3.00pm

– Wednesday 20 August

  • Workshop 1 : 10.30am – 12.00pm
  • Workshop 2 : 1.30pm – 3.00pm

Dorset County Museum, High West Street, Dorchester, Dorset DT1 1XA.

The award winning museum of Dorset. Exciting galleries and displays explore 6000 years of Dorset’s history. Check website for admission prices and opening times

Tel: 01305 262735 – Website: www.dorsetcountymuseum.org
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– Wednesday 27 August 2014

Make a Giant Rhynchosaur Mosaic at Sidmouth Museum with LEGO® professionals, Bright Bricks, and take home yourvery own model.

  • Workshop 1 : 10.00am–11.30am
  • Workshop 2 : 2.00pm–3.30pm

Sidmouth Museum, Church Street, Sidmouth, Devon EX10 8LY.

Something for everyone from Jurassic Coast fossils to local lace. Check website for opening times – Admission: FREE

Tel: 01395 516139 – Website: www.devonmuseums.net
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– Friday 1 August 2014

Create a Jurassic World for a Monster Megalosaur at Portland Museum

  • Workshop 1 : 10am–midday
  • Workshop 2 : 2pm–4pm

Portland Museum 217 Wakeham, Portland DT5 1HS.

Museum houses many of the artifacts associated with the history and culture of the Island and Royal Manor of Portland and tells the story of local industry, the Sea, the Prisons and the People. Check website for admission prices and opening times

Tel: 01305 821804 – Website: www.portlandmuseum.co.uk
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– Friday 29 August 2014

Make a Giant Rhynchosaur Mosaic at All Hallows Museum with LEGO® professionals , Bright Bricks, and take home your very own model.

  • Workshop 1 : 10.30am – 12.00pm
  • Workshop 2 : 1.30pm – 3.00pm

All Hallows Museum, Honiton, High Street, Honiton, Devon EX14 1PG.

Discover Victorian curiosities, Honiton lace and pottery, and a truly ancient Honiton Hippo! Come and see our Jurassic heritage. Check website for opening times – Admission: FREE

Tel: 01404 449668 – Website: www.honitonmuseum.org
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– Saturday 30 August 2014

Make a Giant Megalosuar Mosaic at Wareham Town Museum with LEGO® professionals, Bright Bricks, and take home your very own model.

  • Workshop 1 : 10.00am – 11.30am
  • Workshop 2 : 2.00pm – 3.30pm

Wareham Town Museum, Town Hall, East Street, Wareham BH20 4NN. Wareham Museum tells the story of the geology, archaeology and history of the Wareham area. Check website for opening times – Admission: FREE

Tel: 01929 553448 – Website: www.wtm.org.uk
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– Thursday 28 August 2014

Make a Giant Rhynchosaur Mosaic at Fairlynch Museum with LEGO® professionals , Bright Bricks, and take home your very own model.

  • Workshop 1 : 10.00am – 11.30am
  • Workshop 2 : 2.00pm – 3.30pm

Fairlynch Museum, Budleigh Salterton, Fore Street, Budleigh Salterton, Devon EX9 6NP.

Explore the history of Budleigh Salterton and the lower Otter Valley. Check website for opening times – Admission: FREE

Tel: 01395 442666 – Website: www.devonsmuseums.net/fairlynch
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From Mud and Bones to a Museum Specimen

Richard Edmonds and Kevan Sheehan with the Pliosaur skull © DCM

Richard Edmonds and Kevan Sheehan with the Pliosaur skull © DCM

The fossil bones of this pliosaur skull were recovered by amateur fossil collector Kevan Sheehan between 2003 and 2008, as they were washed out of a landslide on the coast in Weymouth Bay. The largest piece weighed over 80 kg. Kevan missed only four pieces, three of which were recovered by two other collectors.

In 2003, Kevan found three massive sections of the jaw lying at the base of the cliff, freshly washed out by the sea. Over the next five years he returned to the site after rough weather and rain, patiently recovering the pieces as they became exposed. This is an incredible achievement for an individual collector, and a sign of his dedication to the recovery of something that would otherwise have been lost to the sea. The three smaller pieces were found by other local collectors, Patrick Clarke and Shirley Swaine. One small piece at the back of one jaw is lost, while the front of the jaw was probably uncovered many years ago. It could have been washed away or it could be lying in a collection somewhere not yet linked to this find.

Funding

The specimen was purchased by Dorset County Council’s Museums Service, half its initial cost going to the collector and the other half to the landowner. Preparation (cleaning) and piecing the bones back together took 18 months of skilled, professional work. Funding has been provided by the Heritage Lottery Collecting Cultures programme, with match funding from Dorset and Devon County Councils. The restored specimen was formally unveiled here by Sir David Attenborough, on 8th July 2011.

About the specimen

As yet, the skull has not been allocated a formal name. It is currently being studied by research groups at several UK Universities, and it is thought probable that the pliosaur will receive a species name new to science (probably crediting its finder)

The skull is 95% complete, but there was no sign of the body at the find site. Entire skeletons are rare as they tended to be broken up before burial. The massive skull probably fell off the decaying body as it rolled about in the Jurassic sea, being ripped apart by scavenging creatures, possibly even other pliosaurs. The complete animal would have measured between 15 and 18 m in length.

Its skull is 2.4 m long, and is believed to have possessed the biggest bite of all time – powerful enough to sever a small car in two! Although they never lived at the same time, it could have torn the biggest great white shark alive today clean in half.

Pliosaurs lived during the ‘Mesozoic Era’, the age where reptiles dominated the animal kingdom. Dinosaurs patrolled the land, pterosaurs soared the skies, and a variety of large aquatic reptiles (such as plesiosaurs, pliosaurs, ichthyosaurs and mozasaurs), ruled the seas. Both the dinosaurs and the marine reptiles died out at the end of the Mesozoic Era, 65 million years ago, when a massive extinction event wiped out two thirds of life on Earth. The bones of this pliosaur were found in Kimmeridge Clay sediments (deposited during the Upper Jurassic Period), and are about 155 million years old.

Pliosaur

The Sea Dragon – Pliosaur

Scientists have been able to build a picture of how a complete pliosaur would have looked from various fragmentary remains. Living pliosaurs were air-breathing marine reptiles. They are considered to be a subfamily of the plesiosaurs. Unlike some plesiosaurs, they had short necks with just a few vertebrae. Pliosaurs’ barrel-shaped bodies were equipped with a powerful tail and often a huge skull. The creatures swam by means of two pairs of paddle-shaped limbs (for example the forepaddle on the eastern wall of this gallery). The main identifiable differences between skull specimens are the jaws and dentition, which probably reflect different types of prey favoured by each species. They were able to catch and dismember large prey as they had powerful jaws capable of opening wide, and strong, deeply rooted, conical teeth. There is a model of the head as it perhaps looked when alive, hanging in the window of this gallery.

Ongoing research

Scientific study is underway to discover how the animal lived and died, and how its bones became a living reef for encrusting animals. The specimen has already been scanned at the University of Southampton using its high-energy, micro-focus CT scanner – one of the most powerful of its kind in the UK.

The results have been used to reconstruct a three dimensional digital model of the entire skull, revealing fine details of the creature’s internal structure that would otherwise remain a mystery. The University of Bristol are using this CT scan data to understand just how powerful the bite may have been. Experts from the University of Portsmouth will study the fossilisation process, while mud associated with the bones has been sent to the University of Plymouth, to see if any fossil plankton were preserved. Sediment removed from the bones will be studied by experts in the Natural History Museum in search of bones and teeth of animals that may have hunted around the dead skeleton.

Other examples

The Weymouth Bay Pliosaur skull is exceptional because it is 95% complete, but it is not the biggest in the world. Fragments of larger specimens have been found in the brick pits of Oxfordshire. The skull of Kronosaurus, from Australia, was possibly up to 3 m long. Specimens of comparable size have been found in northern Norway, on the island of Svalbard, and in Colombia, South America.

Other pliosaur specimens are on display around the world at

  • Queensland Museum – an example Kronosaurus found in Queensland, Northeast Australia.

Plesiosaur and ichthyosaur specimens are on display in the UK at