Tetrapod Zoology

Tetrapod Zoology

Amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals - living and extinct

Scenes from the Lyme Regis Fossil Festival


Photo by Darren Naish.

Over the last few days, I and my friends and colleagues from the University of Southampton's vertebrate palaeontology research group visited Lyme Regis for the 2013 Fossil Festival, a big, fun event attended by 1000s of people and by most palaeontologically- and geologically-oriented people in the southern half of the UK. There are stalls and displays in a giant marquee, plus there's the local museum (the Philpott), the many fossil shops, and the local coastline itself (even the local church tried to get in on the act, with its creationism-themed 'Fossil and Flood Expo', sigh). Purely for the hell of it, here are just a few images from the event. The photo above was taken at the Natural History Museum stall in the main marquee and shows the Baryonyx replica they had on display. I actually spent most of my time here learning about seaweeds and lichen... wow, lichens are ridiculous.

If you get bored with fossils there are always the awesome gulls to look at. Here's a photo I took down on the shore of three Herring gulls Larus argentatus. Gulls were covered just the other day on Tet Zoo: check it out if you haven't already. While we're here: give up on the idea that gulls are evil vermin, here to eat your chips and spread disease. Actually, they need help and are in chronic decline. Anyway...

Photo by Darren Naish.

I liked this glass-coated ichthyosaur statue, placed on the beach outside the exit of the main marquee... As you can see from the reflections, it would make a great glitterball.

Photo by Darren Naish.

Wanna see more life-sized Mesozoic marine reptile replicas? Check out this giant, blue-green interactive pliosaur....

Photo by Darren Naish.

Yes, this is Horace the Travelling Pliosaur Cinema: an outdoor theatrical installation, accompanied by 'palaeo-mechanic' showman Dr Davidson and his dotty groom Jo (I know because I stole these words from the Horace website). Horace moves, opens his jaws, has giant cartoon eyes, and kids can go inside him and watch a movie!

The Weymouth Bay pliosaur, Dorset County Museum (Dorchester). Photo by Darren Naish.

He was devised in 2012 by visual theatre maker Sarah Butterworth, theatrical engineer Mike Pattison, and actor Peter Courtenay (the film that plays in his belly is by Forkbeard Fantasy); his creation was inspired by the incredible skull (2.4 m long) of the Weymouth Bay pliosaur, currently on display at Dorset County Museum in Dorchester and previously mentioned in this 2011 Tet Zoo article. Richard Forrest tells me that the long-awaited paper on the Weymouth Bay pliosaur is due to appear in PLoS ONE very soon (as in, in a few weeks).

Anyway, here's another view of Horace. Here, children are encouraged to brush his teeth. I'm not sure if this is a message about oral hygiene, or if it teaches you something about sauropterygian dental anatomy...

Photo by Darren Naish.

You want real fossil marine reptiles? Plenty of those to see at the Lyme Regis Museum (formerly the Philpot Museum) and elsewhere, of course. I've featured some of the museum's ichthyosaurs before [see this 2009 article], but here's their new display: it features an awesome, recently discovered Temnodontosaurus skull (and paddle and vertebrae) as well as a new Ichthyosaurus specimen. We have quite a few ichthyosaur projects in the works at Southampton. Indeed, Jessica Lawrence Wujek and me used the event as a good excuse to collect data; we also hung out with the other ichthyosaur-jokeys on the scene: Aubrey Roberts from Oslo gave two talks on ichthyosaur and plesiosaur excavation on Spitsbergen, Sam Bennett discussed his PhD studies on ichthyosaur biology and life history, and Richard Edmonds spoke about his work on the extraction of local ichthyosaur discoveries.

Photo by Darren Naish.

We had a great time - well done to everyone involved, and let's continue to celebrate and study our palaeontological heritage. If you're one of those people who questions the value of this, remember that we can only understand the present and the future by studying the past. For previous Tet Zoo articles on Jurassic marine reptiles, see...

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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