Rare Discoveries at the Booth Museum

Edmontonia Dinosaur, a related species of the Ankylosaurus. Artist impression © Mariana Ruiz Villarreal (wikimedia commons)
Edmontonia Dinosaur, a related species of the Ankylosaurus. Artist impression © Mariana Ruiz Villarreal (wikimedia commons)

Following the visit of a noted academic, a number of the fossils in Brighton Museum’s collections have been found to be preserved parts of armoured dinosaurs (nodosaurids) commonly known as anklyosaurs. Any examples of nodosaurid fossils are rare in the United Kingdom, so to have so many ‘discovered’ at one time is quite exciting.

The discovery started last year when Andy Ottaway, an occasional volunteer at the Booth Museum, came across a fossil he suspected to be part of an Ankylosaur. He contacted his colleague Dr William Blows, an expert on the nodosaurids (armoured dinosaurs) who was interested, but unable to visit at that time.

Dr William Blows
Dr William Blows

Jumping forward to April 2012, Dr Blows was invited to speak at the Brighton Geological Society meeting at Blatchington Mill. He took the opportunity to visit the Booth Museum collections and look at the possible ankylosaur bone, as well as looking through the other fossils associated with it. The fossil was a part of the collection of Arthur Foster Griffith, an alderman of Brighton, who donated large collections to Brighton Museum, and was involved with the Booth Museum. This particular collection was a large number of specimens from the Cambridge Green Sand formation. The specimens are all identified as belonging to the Upper Albian of the Cretaceous period dating them to between 99.6 and 112 million years old. Although the fossils have no record of when they were collected, it seems reasonable that Griffith, a lifelong Brightonian, may have collected or purchased them whilst at university at Cambridge in the 1870s.

Presacral
Presacral

The bone initially thought to be part of an ankylosaur was formally identified as the anterior end of a pre-sacral rod. This was explained as a ‘series of fused dorsal vertebrae which is fused to the anterior end of the sacrum’. This pre-sacral rod is combined with the sacrum to form the synsacrum, a characteristic unique to nodosaurid dinosaurs.

Through Dr Blow’s further exploration of the collection, he was also able to identify a number of nodosaurid dermal scutes, which are hard plate scales on the animal’s skin (hence armoured dinosaurs).

Collar
Collar

His final discovery was a particularly rare series of fossils making up part of the cervical armour ring that was found around the dorsal surface of an nodosaurid neck. These had all been labelled simply as ‘deinosaurian’.

Dr Blows now hopes to publish our specimens as part of a scientific paper, giving our collections wider exposure in the scientific community. His talk to the Geological Society was also a great success and the nodosaurid skull casts he brought along as props were fascinating.

Lee Ismail, Curator of Natural Sciences

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