Having recently covered Hyleosaurus it’s high time I dug out my post on Scelidosaurus and got that out. While pretty much everyone has a decent handle on the general appearance of the stegosaurs and the ankylosaurs, their collective forerunners, the basal thyrophoreans, are rather less well known. Looking (to me at least) a bit like a combination of the two – slightly squat stegosaur-like bodies without the high hips but with smaller plates and scutes and not the totally squat and super armoured body of the ankylosaurs. These are, like many slightly obscure dinosaur groups, starting to get more attention and in the case of Scelidosuaurs this is certainly bolstered by the presence of several amazing specimens.
This one was photographed at the Bristol Museum and, as I understand, it is privately owned and on loan. I have heard through the grapevine that the ownership of this is contested and that several museums have tried and failed to purchase this as a result [Edit: I've just heard from Matt Williams in Bath who tells me this is quite wrong. Apologies. Still, that's what rumours get you]. The truth is somewhat since it is on public display and has featured in at least a couple of books though to my knowledge it hasn’t yet cropped up in the formal scientific literature.
What’s so great about it is that not only is the specimen pretty much complete and articulated but so too is all the armour. Pretty much every scute and spike likes where it would have appeared in life and can be clearly seen that there are whole rows of these lying across the specimen in pretty neat patterns. Obviously in many thyrophorean specimens these small (or even big) pieces of bone can move around or be found isolated from the skeleton so this kind of specimen provides incredible information about where which pieces go and can really help inform the restoration of other specimens and even other taxa. (Oh and look out for some nice ossified tendons too).
If there is one problem here, it is that the bones are black and shiny and in a brightly lit case that means these photos are not as good as I would like, but hopefully this all looks pretty good. (Late edit: Darren Niash has a picture of the whole thing here). There are also some nice isolated elements in addition to this main specimen so I’ll be running another post soon with a few more close ups and bits.