Unmemorable Dinosaura of Wiltshire by by Rebecca Davies BSc. (Hons)

(With much thanks to Christopher Tanfield of St Laurence’s church, Bradford on Avon, for suggesting this title).

Before I get to uploading Rebecca’s words – it made me smile did this. Though I’m not sure what my dinosaur barmy, budding palaeontologist, 4-year old granddaughter would make of this! I have told her about the Swindon stegosaur at the Natural History museum.

And this article from Swindon Link magazine gives some insight into Jurassic Swindon – and where you find it. Town Gardens in Old Town is where.

The Angel Ridge play area, on the site of the old PMH, references the ichthyosaur found nearby. It featured on Blue Peter – no greater accolade surely?

So that’s a round-up of some of Swindon’s memorable dinosaura. Now onto Rebecca’s wry and and amusing tale of Unmemorable Dinosaura of Wiltshire.

Unmemorable Dinosaura of Wiltshire - CGI image of dinosaur in a landscape

Introduction

This article is about something different, for Angela told me about Wiltshire dinosaura.  Something new to me I must admit.

So, your intrepid researcher is now hunting Dinosaura in Swindon and Wiltshire. Where will I find any? Not at all sure what to do, I went to the park. Ah! I see some already!  What luck!

I had a look through my old photographs and picked out some more birds. This is Sulis Sgeir, the Rock of the Gannets.  If you ever lose faith in life, go visit a Gannetry, they are so full of life and action.

Unmemorable Dinosaura of Wiltshire - Sulis Sgeir
Sulis Sgeir

It’s said that the dinosaura are the dominant life-form of the world – apart from ants and bloggers that is.  I certainly have found loads!

Swan - Unmemorable Dinosaura of Wiltshire

And now I am hungry – dinosaura are very good eating! I think I am doing quite well, don’t you think?

KFC - Unmemorable Dinosaura of Wiltshire

Harrumph! Angela is not satisfied with my very productive research, Well, as it turns out the Dinosaura I am supposed to be looking for are old fashioned ones, not modern ones.  What did she expect?

Now I know.  I was so looking forwards to eating one too.  I said I was an archaeologist and not a palaeontologist, didn’t I? Never mind.  I have to look in what we call the Age of Reptiles.

The age of reptiles

The Mesozoic period was from 252 to 66 million years ago and was divided into three sub periods:

The climate was hot and dry but then sometimes hot and wet.  This was the period in which the supercontinent of Pangea broke up into the present day continents, which drifted to their present positions. The plants were gymnosperms like tree ferns, conifers and ginkgo’s, but flowering plants evolved later.

It was in this period that reptiles diversified into many storied lineages. There were the Ichthyosaurs and Plesiosaurs in the sea and the Pterosaurs in the skies. But most of all there were the Dinosaura.

Mammals had evolved too, but until the end of this period, remained small and insignificant.

Wiltshire geology

A quick look at the geological map shows that the geology of Wiltshire is almost all of the Mesozoic period.  Only the alluvial gravels of the Upper Thames and my Sarsen Stones on the Downs are much younger. We are saved. And I, with a bit of searching, have found some old fashioned Dinosaura!

So, I present to you some unmemorable Dinosaura I found in Wiltshire.

Dacentrurus

Unmemorable Dinosaura of Wiltshire - dacentrurus
Unmemorable Dinosaura of Wiltshire - dacentrurus

Dacentrurus comes from Swindon, from the in the Kimmeridge clay to be precise. This is a small member of the Stegosaur family, possibly one of the most visually appealing of all dinosaura.

Jacquetta Hawkes in her meditative book of British landscape, A Land, describes Stegosaurus as: A childlike scholar who has lost his wits, and having hung himself with pot lids and tea trays in order to protect himself from his critics, strays though life sipping crème de menthe and eating ice creamIt would be a fine thing to see a life-sized statue of this singular creature, made strong enough to withstand children climbing on it, as they invariably will do, Stegosaurus being an ideal climbing frame.

Cardiodon Rugulosus

Cardiodon rugulosus  - Unmemorable Dinosaura of Wiltshir
Cardiodon - Unmemorable Dinosaura of Wiltshire

Sauropods are the really huge ones, the largest land animals to have ever lived, and ones just as big as the hugest whales. Unfortunately, like most dinosaura from Wiltshire the fossils are fragmentary and so we can find out very little about it.

Megalosaurus Nethercombenis

Megalosaurus nethercombensis

Megalosaurus nethercombensis
Megalosaurus Nethercombensis

This is a dinosaur much more familiar. It is a therapod, and so a close relative of my bird friends.  But did they have feathers?  Some dinosaurs have feathered remains, some don’t, but bear close relation to those known to have had feathers. And so it’s reasonable to assume that they too had a fluffy coat.

Nuthetes Destructor

Nuthetes destructor
Nuthetes destructor
Nuthetes destructor

Another Theropod, this one much smaller. Being close to birds, many theropods would have had feathers evolve for insulation, sexual display and eventually flight.  Thermoregulation is harder in small animals than it is in large, so a rough rule of thumb; big therapods naked, small ones feathery. Of course, some big therapods may have had a temporary cover of down when very young.

Polacanthus 

Polacanthus 
Polacanthus

Now this dinosaur certainly did not have feathers. Rather, this family are famed for their armour. Indeed some mummified specimens have been found, giving us an unprecedented understanding of their anatomy.

Conclusion

Wiltshire never ceases to surprise me.  While not as well-known for its prehistoric life, like the Isle of Wight for instance, it still has an interesting variety of fossils. Mostly marine life but also some from on land. All of which begs the question – what will I discover next? Meanwhile – back to KFC – all this dinosaur exploration has made me hungry again.

All pictures, even the drawings, are by me, the author. Ditto any stupid mistakes.

Bibliography

A Land, Jacquetta Hawkes, Readers Union 1951.

Feathered Dinosaurs; the Origin of birds, John Long and Peter Shouten, OUP 2009

Hidden Depths, Wiltshire’s Geology and Landscapes, Isobel Geddes, Ex Libris Press 2000

How do we know Birds are Dinosaurs? How Do We Know Birds Are Dinosaurs? (gizmodo.com) (Accessed 14th July 2021).

Dinosaurs of the British Isles, Dean R Lomax & Nobumichi Tamura, Siri Scientific press 2014


For further Jurasssic-related reading see post by Rebecca about the Royal Wootton Bassett mud springs: