A super Scelidosaurus

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.

17 Responses to “A super Scelidosaurus”


  1. 1 Rutger Jansma 28/01/2011 at 2:20 pm

    Are the continued types for Scelidosaurus intentional?

  2. 4 Ragna Redelstorff 28/01/2011 at 3:49 pm

    Yes, this specimen is privately owned (I met the owner last year) and it most likely will not be given to the Bristol or any other museum. As you know, private ownership makes it difficult to work on especially publish the material. Which is a pity since it is a beautiful specimen indeed!
    There is also some Scelidosaurus material in the NHM in London, although not as complete and nicely articulated as this one.
    However, some work on other Scelidosaurus specimens is planned for next year. Watch out! :)

    • 5 David Hone 28/01/2011 at 4:05 pm

      Well I’m not demanding he hand it over, but it would be great to see it permanently held in a research institute. I was still delighted to see it as i had seen photos before.

      Glad to hear there’s more work coming on these guys.

  3. 6 Rutger Jansma 28/01/2011 at 3:56 pm

    Sorry, yeah, I meant “typos” rather than “types”. Thanks for catching that one! ;)

  4. 8 Jim Kirkland 28/01/2011 at 4:25 pm

    We are using information from this specimen as a basis for reconfiguring the armor along the tail of our upper Jurassic ankylosaur Mymoorapelta. The caudal armor is nearly identical!

  5. 10 220mya 28/01/2011 at 4:53 pm

    Such a pity it is a private specimen. Had a chance to look at it in 2008 before SVP.

    Jim – why are you using a private specimen for pubished research?

    • 11 Mike Taylor 28/01/2011 at 5:21 pm

      This is an interesting edge-case, Randy. Presumably Jim’s not planning to write a description of the privately owned specimen. But its existence, and the outstanding quality of its armour, puts anyone who works on related animals in an invidious position. Surely they can’t just go on pretending that the previous best-guess arrangement of the scutes remains the best guess when there is new information to hand?

      I really don’t know what should be done here.

    • 12 David Hone 28/01/2011 at 5:25 pm

      I assumed he meant they were remounting a specimen, though Jim doesn’t actually say.

  6. 13 Jerry D. Harris 28/01/2011 at 5:19 pm

    This is indeed a gorgeous specimen — I too saw it in Bristol (during SVP). Look for some interesting news about the specimen — well, specimen-ish — in another couple of weeks!

  7. 14 Paul Barrett 28/01/2011 at 9:01 pm

    Actually, you can get a lot of this information from the holotype, which is in a public institution, with just a little effort. As beautiful as the David Sole specimens are, they offer very little additional novel anatomical info that can’t already be gleaned from specimens in London, Cambridge and Bristol (some details of the manus and osteoderms are known only from this private material).

    The specimens Dave figures are on loan to Bristol from Mr Sole and shouldn’t really be used for publication, although excellent casts also exist.

  8. 15 Zach Miller 29/01/2011 at 7:01 am

    I, too, saw the specimen at SVP. It might have been my favorite dinosaur fossil in the museums I visited over there. But you’re right–it’s a shame about the glass case. I wasn’t able to take any pictures that came out worthwhile.


  1. 1 More Scelidosaurus stuff « Dave Hone's Archosaur Musings Trackback on 30/01/2011 at 2:31 pm
  2. 2 Scelidosaurus returns! « Dave Hone's Archosaur Musings Trackback on 13/02/2011 at 12:57 pm

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