Research reveals most complete dinosaur discovered in UK in a century

  • Art
  • July 11, 2024

The most complete dinosaur discovered in this country in the past 100 years, with a pubic bone the size of a “dinner plate,” has been described in a new paper published today.

The specimen, which is around 125 million years old, was found in the cliffs of Compton Bay on the Isle of Wight in 2013 by fossil collector Nick Chase, before he tragically died from cancer.

Jeremy Lockwood, a retired GP and PhD candidate at the University of Portsmouth, helped excavate the dinosaur and has spent years analysing the 149 different bones that make up the skeleton.

Jeremy determined that the skeleton represented a new genus and species, which he named Comptonatus-chasei in honor of Nick.

Jeremy said: “Nick had a phenomenal nose for finding dinosaur bones — he was a real modern-day Mary Anning. He collected fossils every day in all weather conditions and donated them to museums. I had hoped that we would spend our old age collecting together, as we were about the same age, but unfortunately that was not to be.

“Despite his many miraculous discoveries over the years, including the most complete iguana This is the first dinosaur to be named after him, the largest skull ever found in Britain.”

When first discovered, it was thought to be a well-known dinosaur called Mantelsaurusbut Jeremy's study revealed much more diversity in dinosaurs. This is indeed the second new genus described by Jeremy.

He said: “I've been able to show that this dinosaur is different because of certain unique features in its skull, teeth and other parts of its body. For example, its lower jaw has a straight bottom, while most iguanodontians have a jaw that curves downwards. It also has a very large pubic bone, which is much larger than that of other similar dinosaurs. It's like a dinner plate!”

Jeremy isn't sure why the pubic bone, located at the base of the abdomen, was so large: “It was probably for muscle attachment, which could mean the way the animal moved was slightly different, or to better support the stomach contents, or maybe it even played a role in the way the animal breathed, but all of these theories are somewhat speculative.”

Jeremy named the dinosaur Comptonate to Compton Bay, where it was found. 'tonatus' is a Latin word meaning 'thunderous'.

“This animal would have weighed about a ton, about the size of a large male American bison. And evidence from fossil footprints found nearby shows it was probably a herding animal, so it's possible that large herds of these heavy dinosaurs were roaming around when startled by predators on the floodplains more than 120 million years ago.”

Dr Susannah Maidment, senior researcher and palaeontologist at the Natural History Museum and lead author of the paper she completed while supervising Jeremy's PhD, commented: “Comptonate is a fantastic dinosaur specimen: one of the most complete found in the UK in the last century.

“The recognition as a new species is due to the incredibly detailed work of NHM Research Fellow Dr Jeremy Lockwood. His research continues to show that the diversity of dinosaurs in southern England during the Early Cretaceous was much greater than previously thought.

“The specimen, which is younger than Brightstoneus but older than Mantelsaurus (two iguanodontian dinosaurs closely related to Comptonate) demonstrate rapid evolution in iguanodontian dinosaurs during this period, and may help us understand how ecosystems recovered after a supposed end-Jurassic extinction event.”

Although only four new dinosaur species have been described on the Isle of Wight in the entire 20th century, eight new species have been added in the past five years.

Jeremy added: “This is a truly remarkable find. It helps us to understand more about the different types of dinosaurs that lived in England in the Early Cretaceous period. It adds to recent research showing that Wessex was one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world.”

The dinosaur has been added to the collections of the Dinosaur Isle Museum in Sandown on the Isle of Wight. The paper was published today in the Journal of Systematic Palaeontology.

Dr Martin Munt, curator of Dinosaur Isle, said: “Ongoing research into the museum's collection continues to produce exciting new discoveries. Most of Nick's major finds have remained on the island, a lasting legacy.

“We can look forward to many more new species of prehistoric creatures being discovered on the cliffs and in the island's collection.”

Mike Greenslade, Chief Executive of the National Trust on the Isle of Wight, said: “This extraordinary discovery at the National Trust’s Compton Bay highlights the Isle of Wight’s rich natural heritage.

“The discovery of the most complete dinosaur in the UK for a century not only highlights the palaeontological value of the island, but also underlines the importance of conserving our landscapes so that future generations can explore and learn from them.

“Nick Chase’s remarkable find and Jeremy Lockwood’s dedicated research are testament to the incredible history waiting to be discovered here. We are thrilled to be part of this ongoing journey of discovery and scientific advancement.”

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