Dippy Returns audio description and transcript

Listen to or download the audio description produced to accompany Dippy Returns: The Nation's Favourite Dinosaur, or read the transcript.

Audio description

4 minutes 22 seconds MP3 (8MB)


If ever evidence was needed to explain why dinosaurs have captured our imagination, then this is it: Dippy the Diplodocus, the Museum's most famous dinosaur. This amazing animal was just one of the hundreds of dinosaur species that dominated our world for millions of years.

Oh, and about the name: scientists say 'dip-LOD-oh-cus' but you can say 'dip-low-DOE-cus' or even 'DIP-low-DOCK-us'. Or just Dippy, as it's affectionately known.

The first thing you notice about this dinosaur is its awe-striking size. One of nature's ancient giants, this dinosaur is the same length as two buses - and would have weighed almost the same as 10 cars. You would not want a Diplodocus standing on your foot.

These bones are actually copies of the originals found in America - a cast. But it's such a good copy that it's still really important.

Dippy was the first Diplodocus to go on display anywhere in the world when it was first revealed here at the Natural History Museum in 1905. The original bones were discovered at the end of the 1800s by palaeontologists employed by the wealthy Scottish industrialist Andrew Carnegie.

In 1902, the King of England visited Andrew Carnegie at his castle and spotted a drawing of Dippy hanging on the wall. The King wanted his own dinosaur for the Museum. Carnegie agreed to send an accurate copy and this striking, full-sized skeleton arrived in London, hailed by Londoners at the time as the greatest animal that ever lived.

Dippy is a 26-metre-long skeleton, with a tiny skull compared with the rest of the body. Dippy’s skull is 50 centimetres long and 25 centimetres wide, with a long snout and blunt, pencil-like teeth that give Dippy an eerie grin.

At seven metres, Dippy’s neck is very long. If Dippy stuck his neck through the front window of a bus, the head would reach the back row. The bones of Dippy’s neck gradually increase in size towards the shoulders, where the largest is more than half a metre long and half a metre wide.

The right front leg is slightly further forward than the left, as if walking forwards. Dippy walked on its fingers and toes, like a horse. The hand bones make a horseshoe shape that is dwarfed by the two sturdy leg bones. These are topped by smooth, wide-grooved shoulder blades, angled down at 45 degrees to meet a heart-shaped set of breastbones.

The biggest ribs in this enormous ribcage are 10 centimetres wide and nearly two metres long. Along the top of the backbone and most of the horizontal tail are short, vertical bone projections a few centimetres apart, like a comb.

Starting from clawed feet, Dippy's back legs are even bigger than the front legs. Each thigh bone is one and a half metres long, slotting at the top into a socket made of huge, smooth, fan-shaped hip bones. It's the upright, tucked-under pose of his legs in particular that define Dippy as a dinosaur.

Mirroring the neck, Dippy's tail curves another seven metres backwards to a point high above our heads. Starting half a metre wide, each bone is smaller than the one before, down to a tiny end that is only the width of a finger. Scientists think this thin, flexible tail might have been used to make a noise like a whip, as a defence from big predators like Allosaurus.

Hanging at regular intervals under Dippy's tail is a series of coat-hanger-shaped bones, designed to support and protect the blood vessels there. The particular shape of these bones gave Dippy's species its name, Diplodocus, which means double beamed.

The colour of fossils depends on what minerals replaced the original bone over time. The original Diplodocus fossils are a very dark brown, so Dippy was painted to look the same.

Diplodocus died out 145 million years ago, but we can still learn a lot about how dinosaurs like Dippy lived and behaved from studying the fossils that are left behind.

Script developed in collaboration with Antenna International.

Stories about Dippy

Discover the many stories of this specimen, from its early stardom to more recent adventures, and find out what other dinosaurs lived 155-145 million years ago during the Jurassic Period.