The near-complete fossilised skeleton of a dinosaur, thought to have lived about 132m years ago, has been unearthed at a brick factory in Surrey.
Paleontologists say they discovered the bones during a routine visit to the site of the Wienerberger quarry in February. The first clues came when the team looked at rock that had been turned up by a bulldozer at the site and discovered a couple of tail vertebrae.
Examining where the rock came from, the team struck gold. “We came across this big rock of the same colour and the same type, jutting out of the side of the slope and we saw a black-coloured bone sticking out, said Jamie Jordan, a self-taught palaeontologist and founder of Fossils Galore, a website and museum.
“I looked to the left and I saw a big black bone sticking out of a bit of rock that had been chipped off by the bulldozers,” he added.
Sarah Moore and Jamie Jordan with their ‘mega-rare’ discovery.
Splitting open the rock in the side of the slope, Jordan and his colleague Sarah Moore realised they were on to something big. “It had bone after bone after bone,” said Jordan. “We looked at each other and said, ‘We have got a dinosaur!’”.
The discovery, he said, was startling. “It’s mega-rare. It’s been years since a near-complete skeleton has been found in the UK.”
The dinosaur, dubbed Indie, is believed to be an Iguanodon: a plant-eating creature that reached about 10 metres in length and just under three metres in height.
Jordan said the blocks in which the bones are resting have been removed from the site and are being investigated and cleaned in a specially designed preparation laboratory at the museum, where the public can see the process at work. “We haven’t found the skull just yet, but how the animal is lying, it is in one of the blocks from the dig site,” said Jordan. “We should come across it – we don’t think there is much missing at all.”
Once complete, says Jordan the fossils will be put on show, with casts taken so a reconstruction of the skeleton can be made.
While it is not clear how the dinosaur died, Jordan said there are tantalising clues, including evidence of bite marks and healing from the bones, and the discovery of theropod footprints in the rocks. “There is a predator-prey relationship there somewhere,” he said.