Experts hail oldest dinosaur find
Published 01/06/2015 | 20:16
Experts say they have identified Britain's oldest sauropod dinosaur from a fossil bone discovered on the North Yorkshire coast.
The backbone originates from a group of dinosaurs that includes the largest land animals to have ever walked on Earth,
The dinosaur bone from the Middle Jurassic Period at about 176 million years old was found on a beach at Whitby after it fell out of a cliff face.
It represents the earliest skeletal record of this type of dinosaur from the United Kingdom and adds to existing evidence from Yorkshire dinosaur tracks that this part of the country was once Britain's very own "Jurassic World", say researchers at the University of Manchester.
Sauropods - often referred to as brontosaurs - include some of the largest plant-eating dinosaurs to have roamed the Earth and were a successful group for nearly 150 million years.
They possessed distinctive long necks and tails, small heads, a large body and walked on all fours. Some species such as the Argentinosaurus grew up to 115ft long and possibly weighed as much as 80 tonnes.
The fossil is said to be an extremely rare find, given the Middle Jurassic rocks of the world are only exposed in a few areas such as China and Argentina where similar-aged dinosaur fossils originate.
Professor Phil Manning and his team from the University of Manchester used X-ray tomography to study the fossil bone, which is now held in the collections at the Yorkshire Museum in York.
Prof Manning said: "Many scientists have worked on the amazing dinosaur tracks from the Middle Jurassic rocks of Yorkshire.
"It was a splendid surprise to come face-to-face with a fossil vertebra from the Jurassic rocks of Yorkshire that was clearly from a sauropod dinosaur
"This fossil offers the earliest 'body fossil' evidence for this important group of dinosaurs in the United Kingdom but it is impossible to define a new species based upon this single bone."
Until more bones are discovered the team have simply nicknamed Britain's oldest sauropod dinosaur Alan, after the finder of this prehistoric giant, Alan Gurr.
Sarah King, curator of natural science at the Yorkshire Museum, said: "We have some of the best examples of fossils from the area in our collections and we are delighted to be able to display the vertebra of Britain's oldest sauropod alongside them for the public to enjoy."
The vertebra will be on show at the Yorkshire Museum from June 8.