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Dr Mark Wilson – Professor of Natural Sciences and Geology, The College of Wooster, Ohio, USA


Earth Sciences Seminar Room


(Basement, WEB 05, the previous Mineralogy Seminar Room)


24th June - 4.00 pm


The rocks of the marine Callovian sections (around 164 million years old) in southern Israel give us a rare look at tropical invertebrate faunas in the Jurassic. The Matmor Formation in particular is rich in sponges, corals, bryozoans, molluscs, and echinoderms. In the past decade many new taxa have been described from the unit, allowing us to begin comparing temperate and tropical Jurassic communities. These fossils are abundant and well preserved in a detailed stratigraphic framework. They represent an important assemblage for studying the evolution and biogeography of Jurassic invertebrates.


More information on attending seminars at


Lorna Steel and collaborators have produced a paper that shows that modern-day killer whales are adapted to use the same hunting and feeding mechanisms as ancient crocodiles from more than a hundred million years ago.


They discovered that two crocodylians that grew to over 4m long and swam in Britain's shallow seas around 150 million years ago, were adapted to eat  prey similar to that of modern-day killer whales. Dakosaurus and Plesiosuchus both had robustly-built skulls and their anatomy indicates the capability to deliver great biting force.



Reconstructions showing the maximum body lengths for the Geosaurini genera present in the late Kimmeridgian-early Tithonian of Western Europe. 

The species from top to bottom are: Geosaurus giganteus, Dakosaurus maximus, Torvoneustes carpenteri and Plesiosuchus manselii. The maximum known body lengths of Torvoneustes and Geosaurus are from Young et al. [14], while those of Dakosaurus and Plesiosuchus are from this paper. The human diver is 1.8 m in height. All metriorhynchid life reconstructions are by Dmitry Bogdanov.  From Young et al. (2012) Creative Commons Attribution License for image and caption.


What is of particular interest is the parallel with the two types of North Atlantic killer whale: one smaller type which eats mainly fish prey, often by suction, and which has extensive wear and breakage on the teeth. The second larger type has little tooth breakage and eats other cetaceans. 


In the ancient crocodylians, there is extensive evidence for a similar dichotomy - in short Plesiosuchus is larger and shows little dental wear, with a wide effective gape that allowed many teeth to come into contact with the prey, so likely to be a specialist feeding on other marine reptiles. Dakosaurus was smaller, with considerable tooth wear and a shortened tooth row, suggesting a more general diet of smaller prey and suction feeding.  This difference in prey helps to explain how two large predators coexisted by avoiding competition.

Young, M.T., Brusatte, S.L., Brandalise de Andrade, M., Desojo, J.B., Beatty, B.L., STEEL, L., Fernandez, M.S., Sakamoto, M., Ruiz-Omenaca, J.I., & Schoch, R., 2012. The Cranial Osteology and Feeding Ecology of the Metriorhynchid Crocodylomorph Genera Dakosaurus and Plesiosuchus from the Late Jurassic of Europe. PLoS ONE 7(9): e44985. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0044985


In two days from now, our Age of Dinosaur exhibition opens to the public on Good Friday, 22 April. Just in time for Easter weekend.


'I'm not hungry' moans Camarasaurus, the first animatronic dinosaur you'll meet in the Age of Dinosaurs exhibition

I peeped into the gallery yesterday to see how the exhibition was coming along. Paul Gallagher, the exhibition's installation manager, is relieved installation is nearing its conclusion. 'Now, the only things left to do are to install the smells and misting machines and complete the final snagging, lighting levels in the two Immersive environments and the showcases. We also need to do some paint touch-ups and set dressing.'


As I enter the Jurassic zone, Paul and his team, are busy trying to give Camarasaurus a big bunch of ferns to eat.


The enormous lurching head and neck of Camarasaurus is the first encounter that visitors will have with the animatronic dinosaurs in the exhibition. The guys make several attempts to coax the beast, without success. Understandably though, as Camarasaurus is one of the biggest giant plant-munching sauropods and getting close to that mouth looked pretty daunting. From its perch on a rock opposite, Archaeopteryx looks on inquisitively.


Screech and sqwak: Protoceratops, left, and Oviraptor, right - two of the noisiest animatronic stars of the exhibition's Cretaceous zone. Select all images to enlarge them

Moving on to the Cretaceous zone, I'm startled by the noises of the five animatronic dinosaurs in this desert habitat. The sounds are pretty alarming, particularly the screech of Protoceratops and the Oviraptor's cry. Maybe Protoceratops is afraid that the prowling, feathery Velociraptor, not far away, will steal its eggs...


Of course, the roar of Tarbosaurus, above - the final animatronic dinosaur and T.rex's terrible twin - is awesome. I'm transfixed to the ground, which trembles from the power of that roar, by the gaping teeth and fearsome jaws as the creature lunges towards me. But drawn to it strangely, and imagine myself riding on top of the giant predator for some reason!  I think it's because you get so close to the dinosaurs in this exhibition, it makes them all the more real.


It intrigues me how we know about the different dinosaur noises, so I ask Paul and he says: ''The dino roars actually come  pre-set with the creatures from Kokoro the manufacturer, in Japan. We can’t alter them. But we did develop the Archaeopteryx noise.'


Georgina, the exhibition's interpretation manager, tells me the noises are actually educated guesswork really. 'Scientists look at similar types and sizes of animal live today,' she says. 'They compare what these sound like and their hearing ranges and piece it together through that.'


Paul Barrett, the Museum's renowned dinosaur researcher confirms this: 'Georgina is spot on. We can deduce hearing ranges in dinosaurs though measuring the size of the part of the inner ear that houses the organ of hearing (the size of this is related to the hearing range). And through looking at body size. Comparisons with closely-related animals, and animals with similar behaviours, flesh this out. For example, we know that the hearing range of Archaeopteryx was very similar to that of an emu, crow or magpie, so we selected crow and magpie calls for the animatronic.'


Undeniably, it's the six animatronic dinosaurs and one animatronic dino-bird that are the stars of the show.


But there's lots more to discover in this exhibition including rare plant and marine specimens, a huge variety of dinosaur body parts, large-scale graphic timelines, illustrations and scientific research panels. Along with interactive challenges and a CGI film.


Have a look at the new Age of Dinosaur exhibition slideshow to see what awaits you


There will be more news of the exhibition and a video trailer coming soon, so watch this space.


Last week on Friday evening, at 6.30pm, three extra special and extra enormous visitors arrived at the Museum.


A team of 8 people with a forklift truck moved the 1.5 tonnes Tarbosaurus into the Museum. © Oli Scarff/ Getty Images

It took three and a half hours to show our guests into the building - nothing compared to their six-week sea voyage from Tokyo though - after which they were quietly ushered through to the Waterhouse Gallery. Here they will wait in the wings while their new prehistoric home is painstakingly created.


The three giants, Camarasaurus, Tarbosaurus and Gallimimus, will be the big stars in Age of the Dinosaur exhibition, opening on Good Friday, 22 April.


Paul Gallagher, our exhibition Project Manager, explains: 'We had to rig up a temporary lighting system to help illuminate our transport route into the gallery and also construct a scaffold platform on the front steps of the Museum.'


'I am really impressed by the skin quality and the realism of the dinosaurs up close,' says exhibition Project Manager, Paul Gallagher after inspecting the 1.5 tonnes Tarbosaurus inside the Museum. © Oli Scarff/ Getty Images


Now, the installation work in the Waterhouse Gallery begins. Age of the Dinosaur will take visitors back millions of year into the Jurassic and Cretaceous eras. It will feature six life-size animatronic dinosaurs, one animatronic bird, and about 75 specimens and specimen replicas with hundreds of insect, plant and tree models.


Workmen manoeuvre the Gallimimus dinosaur model into the Museum. © Oli Scarff/ Getty Images

Next time you see these gargantuan beasts, they will be moving in the rocks, trees and watery places of their ancient world. It will be a very different encounter.


Read the news story about the animataronic dinosaurs' journey from Japan and arrival at the Museum

Enjoy more pictures of the animatronic dinosaurs arriving here Select the images to enlarge them. © Oli Scarff/ Getty Images


Carefully unloading the first dinosaur outside the Museum
Gallimimus emerges from the rear


Gallimimus braves the bright lights


Exhibition project manager Paul Gallagher introduces himself to Tarbosaurus


Unveiling the head of Camarasaurus

The coastline of the English county  of Dorset is spectacular and beautiful. It exposes a long sequence of Jurassic age sedimentary rocks, which are world renowned for their wealth of fossils, ranging from huge marine reptiles such as Ichthyosaurs through to ammonites and minute invertebrates.


stair hole small.JPG

Stair Hole, Dorset


Beginning with the pioneering work of early collectors like Mary Anning, the area has been a cradle of palaeontology, attracting collectors of widely varying levels of knowledge and interest, ranging from beginners through experienced, dedicated amateurs and professionals.


The Jurassic  Coast is now a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site and the Museum is an active partner in public and scientific programmes along the coast. 


The Palaeontological Association has recently published a guide to the fossils from the lower Lias of this area, edited by Alan Lord and Paul Davis. Eleven of the twenty chapters plus appendix were authored or co-authored by current and former members of the Palaeontology Department and our Scientific Associates. These include, Sandra Chapman, Diana Clements, Joe Collins, Paul Davis, Tim Ewin, Peter Forey, Nicole Fraser, David Lewis, Alison Longbottom, Angela Milner, Martin Munt, Ellis Owen, Phil Palmer, Andy Ross, Jon Todd, Stig Walsh, and John Whittaker. This new field guide is an invaluable resource for amateur, student and professional.


Lord, A. R. and P. G. Davis (eds). 2010. Fossils from the Lower Lias of the Dorset Coast. Palaeontological Association Field Guides to Fossils No. 13. Palaeontological Association, London. 436pp.

Last week I joined the queue to re-visit our famous giant, moving T. rex in the Dinosaurs Gallery. I felt the buzz of excitement and anticipation as we got closer to the pit and the faraway roars got louder. I've visited T. rex many times, but that roar and the mist from the pit just before you turn the corner, always gets me.


Re-live the roar in this short clip of T. rex in action


Visitors arriving now from all over the world to marvel at the Museum's star attraction won't probably know that our T. rex has recently been absent from the Dinosaurs Gallery for about 5 weeks. This disappearance was due to a serious operation involving a hip replacement, major cosmetic surgery, and some much-needed pit improvements. Well, poor T. rex is after all, about 65 million years old and it's a challenging job frightening Museum visitors day after day.


Perhaps it was my imagination, but as I walked past the noticeably swampier-looking pit, I thought I saw a twinkle in those small, ferocious eyes. I'm sure T. rex is glad to be back in business. (In our busiest weeks T.rex can attract up to 50,000 visitors a week.)


It was engineers Steve Suttle and Martin Kirkby who carried out the highly skilled replacement of T. rex's strained hip joint parts and neck. These T.rex bits had got very worn through, so the new joints and parts mean smoother motion, all the better to scare us with. Technician Rob Lewenstien did the careful cosmetic surgery on the silicone skin to smooth over cuts.


There was also major scenic work done on T. rex's pit by our Display and Conservation team, led by Claire Kelly. The team re-painted and re-defined the ground and water area in the pit and also re-worked the carcass which T. rex sniffs around. Extra foliage, tree stumps and plant stems have been added to get a more authentic swampy habitat. The picture below shows work in progress.


Finishing touches came from the Museum's SFX and Media Tech teams who have improved the lighting and the ambient soundtrack to better show off the pit and create a more atmospheric and dramatic display.


t.rex-Jesmonite-around-carcass.jpg'The project showed off the wide range of skills in the Museum's in-house production teams,' enthused programme manager, Nick Sainton-Clark, 'and the engineering work was extensive but successful, so we shouldn't have to have this kind of closure for the foreseeable future.'


Enjoy the Dinosaur Gallery highlights in our slideshow


Learn about Dinosaurs on our website


Explore our Dino Directory




Click on the images to enlarge them.