Thursday, 6 July 2017

Wukongopterus Lii

The "Dinosaurs of China" exhibition is now open at Wollaton Hall, Nottingham.  This is an exceptional chance to see some of the most important fossil finds from China at first hand.  The most interesting specimen for me was not the immense casts of the large sauropod and raptor dinosaurs, but the last fossil in the display - The pterosaur Wukongopterus lii.
This specimen is held in a glass case with the reflections of the hall showing on any photograph, but visually, the detail of this fine fossil can be seen.

The magic of direct photography brings the full detail of the specimen to view.  Previously I have only seen drawings and press images of this fossil.  To see the complete specimen is stunning.

This is a basal pterosaur from the Daohugou Beds of Liauning Province.  This is the Holotype - IVPP V-15113.  It is one of the earliest forms of its type from the Late Jurassic, showing similarities with other earlier forms like Darwinopterus.

For me, The exhibition was worth seeing for this one specimen.

 Wang X., Kellner A. W. A., Jiang S. and Meng X., 2009, An unusual long-tailed pterosaur with  elongated neck from western Liaoning of China. Anais da Academia Brasileira de Ciências 81 (4): 793–812.

 Another interesting fossil is that of Yi qu, a modest sized feathered dinosaur with a bird like skeleton and what appears to be a bat like wing.  This unusual anatomical structure poses questions about its lifestyle.
 Of course, the largest specimen is the Mamenchisaurus hochuanensis which is 23m long and mounted upright to enable it to fit into the main hall gallery.  Wow!

Friday, 30 June 2017

The Lapworth Museum of Geology

 I have not had any contact with the Lapworth Museum at Birmingham University Edgbaston Campus since the mid 1980's.  This museum has seen a significant improvement in many respects since then and is well worth a visit. The  University railway station is a short walk away and it can be accessed from Redditch, Birmingham New Street or Litchfield.
 There is a striking life size model of the skeleton of Pteranodon ingens suspended from  the main fossil gallery ceiling.  This gives a good idea of the size of these large Late Cretaceous pterosaurs.
 A cast of the Bonn fossil of Scaphognathus crassidens shows how the Late Jurassic rhamphorhynchoid pterosaurs had sturdy skeletons and well armed jaws.
 By contrast, the lighter and more gracile Pterodactylus antiquus skeleton cast of one of the Munich specimens shows a different type of Late Jurassic pterosaur.  Both of these casts are of exceptional quality, being professionally produced from the original fossils.  Many commercial copies are not nearly so good.
The museum collections are arranged to give a good understanding about the distribution of fossil types across geological time, which is exactly what a university museum collection should do. 
Of course, there are other aspects of the fossil collections here that are just as interesting and amazing as the pterosaur offerings.  Next time I am in Birmingham I shall consider another visit to this fascinating place.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

The Biddulph Grange Gardens Pterosaur

On a recent visit to Biddulph Grange Gardens I was looking at the progress in the geology gallery when I spotted a pterosaur skull on a cast of a lithographic limestone slab.  This was a pterosaur fossil that I had not been aware of.  After contacting the grange, I was put in touch with Daniel Atherton, who is part of the restoration project responsible for the refurbishment of the Geological Gallery.  I was invited to inspect the original slab which was recorded as a fish fossil due to the presence of a number of fish remains visible.
Amongst the fish jaws was a skull resembling that of Pterodactylus antiquus.

The skull is very worn and has many damaged and broken bones.  The upper mandible is obscured by the presence of a fish jaw.  The posterior skull is also broken and part of the basal skull is displaced downwards.
On the edge of the slab is what appears to be a wing bone association.  On original inspection I glossed over this part of the slab.  On closer examination, this represents the dorsal spine and sacrum, with caudal vertebrae at one end and a thoraxic vertebra at the other.  Two fish bones are seen to line up with this associated group of pterosaur bones to give the impression of a pterosaur wing.
 
 The fossil is stored away from the public, but a cast of this slab can be seen in the Geology Gallery at Biddulph Grange Gardens, Staffordshire.
This fossil was collected in Victorian times, but there is no record of the source.  It has only recently been found to contain pterosaur material.  More information will follow as it becomes available.

 

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Dinosaur Plate

I recently found this plate at the Emma Bridgewater factory shop in Stoke-on-Trent, UK.  It has been decorated using a sponge print method by hand, showing a sauropod dinosaur surrounded by 8 pterosaurs.  On the back rim can be seen a circle of brown trilobites.
This appears to be a one off design as it has not appeared on the factory stock sheets.  There is a decorating studio on the factory premises where children and adults can pay a small fee for the opportunity to decorate their own pottery.  This may be an uncollected piece which has been sold in store.  It may also be a demonstration plate used by staff at the studio.
Apart from the source and the label on the back, I have no other information on this pottery piece.  Having done an Internet search, it is clear that there is a lot of dinosaur and pterosaur stuff out there.  It is quite fun to see what is available.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Jurassic Kites

This summer I found a kite design by a company called Jurassic Kites.  Having sent for one, just for fun, I had go.  The design was developed by Sibyl King and it is manufactured by Peterkin UK Ltd.

 The kite comes neatly folded in a thin sleeve and is ready harnessed, just needing two pins fixing to brace the wings and a line (supplied)  attaching to the harness loop.
 Then its up to the top of a windy Knoll - in this case the hills under Thorpe Cloud at Ilam, Derbyshire, UK - Then up it goes.
 The first attempt was in low gusty winds and the kite was easily stalled.  It took some skill to keep it airborne.  With a smaller relative surface area than a conventional kite, this one needs a constant 5+ knot wind ( at least 6 miles per hour) to keep it aloft.
 This was no problem as the wind speed increased.  At a distance, this is a quite convincing kite.  The streamers are needed to stabilise the kite direction.  Without them it will loop wildly.  I am tempted to try it with shorter wing streamers, but that will wait until I have some lighter ribbons of clear plastic.
 With a little more wind, the kite becomes much more stable.
Bringing it down is easy if you peg the cord to the ground and walk along shortening the cord until the kite is near ground level.  Much quicker to crash the kite, but I want to fly this one again.
It is years since I seriously flew a kite - What fun.

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Gordon Cullen


In 1958, a tile wall mural was commissions for the lower precinct in Coventry.  It represented much of the history of the city.  The work was undertaken by Gordon Cullen and installed during the redevelopment in 1958.
As part of the mural, there is a wall showing prehistoric creatures.  One is a representation of a pterosaur.

This could be of Dimorphodon macronys, though the characteristics are very generalised.  It is good to see such a ceramic representation from 1958.

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Pterosaurs at Liverpool

 Having recently visited the Liverpool World Museum to see the cast of Quetzalcoatlus northropi suspended in the Foyer, I saw a number of specimens on display in the galleries.  The specimen in the foyer is big and imposing.
 In the education centre was a cast of a Tropiognathus skull.  This was a substantial sized pterosaur.
 A lone Rhamphocephalus bucklandi tooth from the stonesfield slate at Naunton, Gloucestershire was also on display.  This is a small, but complete tooth.
 Three plaster casts of small Solnhofen pterosaurs from the Lithographic Limestone of Bavaria are displayed along with a wing phalange of Pteranodon, from Kansas in the same display as the Rhamphocephalus tooth.
There is also a phalange from the lithographic limestone of Bavaria that is attributed to Pterodactylus.  Both ends are damages, but this seems a good association to me.

There is also a small, but somewhat outdated model of a pterodactylus, of which I do not have a photograph.  The World Museum at Liverpool is an excellent visit if you have not been before.