Field of Science

The Bristol Dinosaur Project Featuring Thecodontosaurus

Benton, M. J., Schouten. R., Drewitt, E. J. A., and P. Viegas. in press. The Bristol dinosaur project. Proceedings of the Geologist's Association. doi:10.1016/j.pgeola.2011.07.004

Abstract - Dinosaurs have been fascinating to the widest public since the 1840s, and that interest has grown step-wise ever since. Public interest has been harnessed over the years especially by museums in blockbuster exhibitions, and in the form of best-selling books and films. Here we describe a major educational initiative, the Bristol Dinosaur Project, which has run for ten years and has reached tens of thousands of children and adults, supported by substantial funding. The Bristol Dinosaur Project focuses on the fourth dinosaur ever named in the world, Thecodontosaurus, discovered in Bristol in 1834, and named in 1836. The dinosaur is not in itself spectacular, being only 1–2 m long, but its evolutionary role as one of the first plant-eating dinosaurs in the world justifies our current research, and provides a strong theme for the public presentation. Further, the fact that the dinosaur is found as disarticulated bones in ancient tropical cave systems, allows us to develop numerous key themes with all age groups: the geological time scale, continental drift, reconstruction of ancient environments, modern landscape analogues, the rock cycle, evolution, biomechanics, and critical assessment of geological and palaeontological evidence. These themes are of key importance for socio-economic and intellectual reasons, and yet are often poorly understood.

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