Denizens of the Oxford Clay

In many ways, Britain is the birth-place of palaeontology, and the heady years of the 19th century saw the discovery of creatures that have inspired the imagination of small boys ever since – myself included. I’m talking, of course, about the dinosaurs.

A vast plethora of names abound for the various scraps of bone that were discovered in those days and, unfortunately, many finds today still suffer from this taxonomical mess. Fortunately, however, the British dinosaur scene is undergoing something of a revival with new research and, more importantly, new finds coming to light. This is the story of one of those finds and the bigger picture it fits into.

deposits-lateral-viewOrnithopoda incertae sedis – PFL03 in lateral view. Note the prominent projection at A (prezygapophysis) that would have articulated with the next vertebra behind and provided the rigidity in the spinal column. The attachment site for a bony chevron can be seen to the bottom right at B. The neural spine is broken along its width, but would have extended an estimated 1 to 2cm at C.

‘PFL 03’ is probably not the most exciting name in the world. I came up with it, and even I agree it is fairly dull. However, this is my collection number for a small bone that thudded to the floor inside a parcel during August 2008. The parcel’s various contents were the result of a trade with Fiona Jennings (a fellow fossil-hunter), and the small bone was thrown in due to the lack of Ichthyosaur material  – Ichthyosaurs being my special interest. Secure inside a foam-padded plastic box, the attached label read:


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For the help provided to me in preparing and writing this article, I would like to give special thanks to Fiona Jennings for her valuable correspondence and to the staff of the Sedgwick museum for their work on this and other finds.

*  In this article the abbreviation CAMSM has been used to refer to the Cambridge Sedgwick Museum