The BSPG Triceratops

It is often a surprise that some fossils end up where they do. One might expect that any scientifically important fossil found in a country would end up either in the nearest museum or university, or at least the major central repository of that country (i.e. a national museum). However, plenty get spread far and wide – in the olden days, fossils were often traded or sold between institutes (or occasionally given as gifts) and this practice still occurs, though generally only things of minor importance (i.e. duplicates of specimens – there are only so many Lycoptera that are worth keeping) and certainly nothing that is a type, or is especially important through completeness, or soft tissue preservation etc. Nevertheless, some fossils do still move legally between institutes (both legally and sadly illegally on occasion) and it can be frustrating sometimes when you discover that the specimen you *really* want to see is not where you expect it to be.

A case in point is the Yale Rhamphorhynchus (pictured, copyright Yale Peabody Museum) – one of the best preserved specimens with exceptional wing preservation (or so I’m told). Very few Solnhofen pterosaurs ever left Germany (of course a few are in Austria and Switzerland, but they are hardly difficult to see) so it is a surprise that something this nice made it to the US. Actually the BSPG (my old institute in Munich) got a pretty good deal out of sending the Rhamphorhynchus (and some other pterosaur bits) over in 1964 – they got this in exchange:

Well, it was a good deal for *them*, it is a beautiful specimen (and includes a very nice cervical series not shown) and an important one at that. *I* on the other hand wanted to see the Rhamphorhynchus and I couldn’t because it was 3000 miles away, and I could hardly ask for a grant to go and see it, when better specimens were already in the same building as me. Bugger.

I must thank Yale for letting me use the above image of their Rhamphorhynchus for free, and to Brian Andres for arranging this for me.

7 Responses to “The BSPG Triceratops”


  1. 1 Christopher Collinson 05/10/2008 at 4:10 pm

    Crazy! I think I’ve seen pictures of this specimen probably millions of times but until now I’ve never noticed that part of the left(?) wing was reconstructed.

  2. 2 David Hone 05/10/2008 at 7:47 pm

    Or me until I got hold of these originals (again, my thanks to Yale). It looks like all the existing phots and indeed casts available are of the restored version seen above and the massive contrast in plaster and rock have been toned down severly. I intended to make a point of this at some point in the future now I have permission to use the image.

  3. 3 c.glen 05/10/2008 at 9:19 pm

    Its funny – the edition of Pat Shipman’s ‘taking wing’ has a photo of a replica of this Rhamphorhynchus fossil on the cover, with the note at the beginning of the book claiming it to be Archaeopteryx! Hadn’t clicked that it was this specimen.

  4. 4 David Hone 06/10/2008 at 8:55 pm

    Yes I had always puzzled how a book entirely abut the evolution of flight had managed to stick a pterosaur on the cover. I simply assume the publishers didn’t check or ask anyone and just bunged it on as a fossil flying animal and assumed it was right. Bit of a whoopsie really.


  1. 1 The Great Pterosaur Exhibition of 2007 « Dave Hone’s Archosaur Musings Trackback on 10/10/2008 at 8:11 pm
  2. 2 The other side of the Marginocephalae « Dave Hone’s Archosaur Musings Trackback on 23/08/2009 at 10:46 am
  3. 3 The BSPG « Dave Hone’s Archosaur Musings Trackback on 28/12/2009 at 9:08 am
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