by Deborah Hutchinson, Geology curator
Bristol Museum & Art Gallery is very lucky to care for two pliosaur specimens.
One is a huge impressive skull on permanent display in the Sea Dragons Gallery. But our second pliosaur takes up a bit more room as we have much more of it!
Our second pliosaur, Pliosaurus carpenteri is the star of the upcoming exhibition Pliosaurus! Face to face with a Jurassic beast. In life this individual would have been an incredible eight metres long. While we do not have the entire animal, we do have quite a lot of it.
In fact we have so much that this one individual takes up one whole side of storage in the geology stores.
The fossil bones of this Jurassic marine predator took 10 years to remove from the rock in which they were preserved and it has taken many years of research to decide exactly where they all fit.
This is a tricky process as we don’t have all the fossil bones and the fossils we do have are not all complete. Also as pliosaurs are now extinct, we have nothing alive like it today to compare them with.
The skull is preserved in 18 parts, not to mention all the teeth and there are 22 fossils from the flipper.
Each bone has been catalogued with a unique identifying number, measured, photographed and identified (as best as possible) so they can be reconstructed in a 3D mount for the exhibition.
In total 119 different fossil bones are being mounted including the skull, jaw, teeth, a flipper, shoulder bones, ribs and the back bone.
Not all the bones will be on display, there is still a lot of material that is yet to be worked on, so there may still be even more of our pliosaur to be found.
Main image: A lot of pliosaur: All these boxes and shelf space is needed to store just this one specimen of pliosaur – BRSMG Cd6172