Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Mary Anning Weekend

The weekend of the 29th and 30th September is part of the Mary Anning Week event at the Lyme Regis Museum, Dorset.  Mary Anning was a prolific fossil collector who discovered several very well known marine reptiles from the Jurassic rocks and cliffs around Lyme Regis.  She also discovered one of the first recorded English Pterodactyles.
This specimen of Dimorphodon macronyx (then Pterodactylus macronyx) was collected from the Undercliff in the Lower Jurassic Blue Lias at Lyme Regis.  It was described by the Reverend Willaim Buckland in his 1829 paper and the specimen now resides in the Natural History Museum, London.

Several other specimens were found in the Lias following this discovery, including a skull, two tails and a near complete skeleton.  The skull, also now in the Natural History Museum, was drawn by Mary's brother Joseph, using reconstituted belemnite ink from the cliff fossils.  This early drawing is now in the Lyme Regis Museum.
Other illustrations have since been done using this method of ink drawing.  The Annings made a good living selling fossils from the Liassic Cliffs around Lyme.  Many of them can be found in museums around the UK and some have been sent to overseas customers.  The Plesiosaurs and Ichthyosaurs are perhaps their most dramatic finds from this time.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Old Photographs

A couple of days ago I received an enquiry about photographs of some of the obscure type specimens - the sort of fossils that are outside of the main stream of research because they are generally fragmentary remains.  To see if I could provide such photographs I searched my collection of images.  Very little joy in that search as I could only find two of the images, and they were of poor quality.  This inspired me to do a bit more with my negatives.
I do have some old photographs which go back to 1975 and they are mostly kept as negatives or 35mm slides.  This mandible of Rhamphocephalus was taken at the Natural History Museum, London, in 1976; then the British Museum of Natural History. It is digitised from a black and white negative using a film copier and it has remained good after 36 years in storage.
This image is of the upper and lower mandible of Istiodactylus in the University Museum of Zoology, Cambridge, taken in 1986.  The picture was taken using a cheap colour positive film and the chemistry of the slide has changed, degrading the image significantly.

Time is important in protecting old images.  The digital versions may often be less pixilated than good quality film images, but they do not degenerate in the same way.  I now keep all of my digital images on a separate hard drive in two files, my copyright and other peoples copyright.  This drive is backed up an a secure separate hard drive on a monthly basis and most of the images are also stored on a DVD disc.  This ensures that in the event of a crisis, some images will be preserved.

In my office are two boxes of slides and negatives which still need to be digitised.  Some have degraded considerably and may well never be recovered.

I am now looking for photographic images of the following specimens;

Natural History Museum, London
R176 Istiodactylus latidens
37002 Rhamphorhynchus longipes
42735 (Pterodactylus pulchellus) Pterodactylus micronyx
37990 (Pterodactylus longicollum) Diopocephalus longicollum
1640 (Cimoliornis diomedeus) Ornithocheirus diomedius

Sedgwick Museum, Cambridge
B54.443 (Ornithocheirus brachyrhinus)
B54.437 or B54.438 (Ornithocheirus carteri)
B54.499 (Ornithocheirus crassidens) Amblydectes crassidens
B54.544 (Ornithocheirus dentatus)
B54.444 (Ornithocheirus enchorhynchus)
B54.644 (Ornithocheirus eurygnathus) Amblydectes eurygnathus
87822 (Ornithocheirus huxleyi) Lonchodectes oweni
B54.835 (Ornithocheirus platystomus) Amblydectes platystomus
B54.440 (Ornithocheirus polyodon) Seeley 1870
B54.441 (Ornithocheirus scaphorhynchus) Lonchodectes scaphorhynchus

If you have such images that you are willing to share, please send them to pterosaur@ntlworld.com