Marine reptiles & Dinosaurs Review


How the review works

The aim of the review is to establish material that is of scientific merit and specimens which are good representatives, possessing public potential for display and community events. These two criteria do not necessarily go hand in hand; as a specimen may have a fantastic scientific research potential, but may not be visually impressive. Therefore the specimens are graded against two separate criteria: Scientific Merit (as a numerical value of stars) and Public Engagement (as a Gold, Silver or Bronze status).

For a more in depth look into the review criteria, click on the “Review Criteria” tab in the tool bar above.


The Vertebrate palaeontology:

Marine reptiles & Dinosaurs Review


The marine reptile & dinosaur collection consists of 26 trays containing 245 specimens and as in previous reviews, it was decided that the amount of material would suit the review being conducted as a detailed, systematic, tray by tray investigation; finishing with the large scale specimens.


The collection contains a variety of marine reptile material featuring: numerous Ichthyosaur skulls, jaws, isolated teeth and vertebrae; with some superb and historic full skeletons. Plesiosaur material consists of a few isolated teeth, a historic headless full skeleton and some limb girdles. Pliosaur material is scarce, consisting of a few isolated teeth. Crocodiles are represented as a disarticulated steneosaurus skull and fossilised eggs; and finally a rare Nothosaur solitary rib fragment.

The dinosaur material is more abundant, but less diverse, featuring: a Hadrosaur forelimb bone, Hylaeosaurus vertebrae, and a Hypselosaurus egg, along with numerous Hypselospinus fossil bones (approx 10% complete skeleton).


Day One.

Will Watts led the review, starting with the entire collection of Iguanodont fossils, identified as Hypselospinus fittoni. These have been accessioned individually and it was agreed that if it were reconstructed, the specimen would score 3 Gold stars. For the purpose of this review, each individual fossil bone would be systematically reviewed on its own merit.

1866.01.073.1 & 066

Leedm.B.1866.01.073.01 & 066

The majority of the collection was discovered in Sussex, UK during the early 1860’s by Edwin Austin and was donated to Leeds Museum in 1866; and is a rare and historic specimen with scientific value.



Two interesting Hypselospinus fittoni ribs sections (3 Bronze stars – Leedm.B.1866.01.73.01) and  (3 Bronze stars – Leedm.B.1866.01.66) combining to make a superb distal section of rib.




The distal end of a radius, from a juvenile Hypselospinus fittoni (3 Silver stars – Leedm.B.1866.01.35) featuring a convincing tooth shaped indentation, with the impacted bone surface fossilised within the cavity. Further research would be needed, but could be very nice evidence for predation or scavenging.




A striking Hylaeosaurus sp. vertebra (3 Silver stars – Leedm.B.1866.01.40) exhibiting distinct rib attachments and neural canal.




A wonderful Hypselospinus fittoni ungual phalanx or claw, from the left foot, IV digit (3 Silver stars – Leedm.B.1866.01.92)




A larger Hypselospinus fittoni dorsal vertebra (3 Bronze stars – Leedm.B.1866.01.41.1-3) made up by three specimens, with matrix in the neural canal.




A small Hypselospinus fittoni caudal or tail vertebra (3 Bronze stars – Leedm.B.1866.01.68). This specimen is very close to the tip of the tail, but sadly the tip is absent in the collection.




A fragile but wonderful Hypselosaurus priscus (3 Gold stars – Leedm.B.1980.01) a Sauropod egg from Bouches-du-Rhône, France; currently on display at Leeds City Museum.




The middle section of a Hypselospinus fittoni femur (2 Bronze stars – Leedm.B.1866.01.99.01) and (2 Bronze stars – Leedm.B.1866.01.99.02) from Sussex, England. Two poorly preserved specimens combining to make a robust femur, lacking both distal and proximal ends (photo taken during the review).

will and sauro

The moment before discovering it’s true identity


This was a truly unexpected find that made both Will and I gasp. Both specimens have a highly eroded surface that had complicated the original misidentification. It was only when the two specimens were joined that the specimen revealed its secret and true inner beauty.






An unidentified Crocodile egg (1 Bronze stars – Leedm.B.1985.05.04) from Bas-Rhin, France; in a limestone and pisolite matrix.




A very nice Pliosaur tooth (1 Silver star – Leedm.B.TN3406) from Dorset, England. A rare specimen in the collection.




A rare Triassic Nothosaur rib (1 Clear stars – Leedm.B.1955.61.BBN) on a limestone matrix from Bavaria, Germany.



Day Two – Reconstructing a Dinosaur.

The decision was taken before the review to reconstruct the Iguanodont fossils for two reasons:

  1. To assess the amount material; as 11 trays of isolated fossils give little indication of how much skeletal material there is in the collection.
  2. The material had not been reconstructed for decades, with no records of any full reconstruction within the last century.

… and lets admit it – Because it’s awesome!

The material had been reviewed on day 1, so we had a general idea of  what the final reconstruction would look like. But in reality, the final assemblage proved somewhat different…

build trays

Trays of Iguanodont vertebrae & limb bone

build trays2

Trays of Iguanodont ribs, limb bones












The morning commenced with laying the trays out to help with specimen retrieval. The reconstruction started with the tip or near tip of the tail, with the individual specimens being laid out on Plastazote foam. In a short space of time the first sheet of Plastazote was quickly filled as the tail grew in length, with alterations occurring along the way.

1st vert

The first vertebra


Will & Glenn working on the tail vertebrae











The tail sequence taking shape



Glenn and Will progressed with the tail, which began to take shape;  sorting the dorsal and caudal vertebra, and neural arches to establish a rough sequence.

Glenn continued with the vertebrae with some fine tuning of the caudal sequence until finally content, then turned his attention to the tray of ribs. with daunting task of reuniting individual fragments into longer lengths of rib specimens.




Progressing with the foot, while the tail gets revised

Will and I began working on the foot, piecing together the phalanx material, which began to take shape at a gathering pace. One important discovery was the realisation that some misidentified limb bones were in fact metatarsals, extending the foot material and giving a greater impact.


Limb bones come under review

Whilst Glenn worked on the ribs and I worked on the foot, Will turned his attention to identifying and sorting out the numerous generic limb bones with reuniting specimens to produce longer lengths of limb bones, and some wonderful discoveries: a femur distal extremity, a small fragment of ilium, both proximal and distal extremities of tibia and fibula.


The sequenced tail, as Will reunites some metatarsals


With time drawing to a close, Glenn makes final alterations to the tail, as the material takes shape



A wonderful outcome of this event was achieved by all three of us in reuniting numerous parts and counter-parts of specimens that until now had no records of being the same fossil bone, and identifying some material that had been misidentified.






Unfortunately, with only one day to undertake this reconstruction, time was beginning to slip away. The decision was taken to assemble the individual elements that we had achieved as an overview of the dinosaur. This event would have prospered from another day or two to insert more fossil material, but it had achieved the main goals in assessing the amount of fossil material  in the collection, as a broad reconstruction.

dino final

The final assemblage, with unresolved material directly above the book.



A little more investigation into the material is required, but an additional outcome of this event was to investigate the possibility for a future public event. As a result, a reconstruction and interpretation is planned to go on temporary display at Leeds City Museum in 2016.





At the time of the review the material was simply classified as Iguanodon, and was believed to be of the same individual animal. Since then, a further investigation has established the specimens identities, and further more – the collection is made up of four individuals; three adults and one juvenile, with the vast majority of the material belonging to one adult Hypselospinus fittoni.


will investigate

Will inspecting the first tray on day three






Day Three.


The review resumed with some amazing and somewhat surprising discoveries, notably a superb Ichthyosaur (3 Gold stars – Leedm.B.1849.9) a splayed full skeleton, exhibiting extreme distortion of the skull with rigor mortis curvature of the spine (below) from Somerset, England. A framed and historically mounted valuable specimen.



Plesiosaur skeleton.


A large scale framed Plesiosaur cast (1 Gold star – Leedm.B.1846.6) of Thomas Hawkins replica, with historic importance.


Two large dinosaur coprolites from Utah, USA.

Leedm.B.1980.03.01 & 02

Two display worthy coprolites (1 Silver star – Leedm.B.1980.03.01) as a smaller solid mass, and (1 Gold star – Leedm.B.1980.03.02) as the larger cut and polished specimen, exhibiting an interior nucleus. Both from Utah, USA.




A well preserved Pliosaur tooth (1 Gold star – Leedm.B.TN5830) on a limestone matrix with echinoid spine; from Dorset, England.




A striking unidentified footprint (0 Silver stars – Leedm.B.TN1671) from an unknown location.




An unusual and quite rare Ichthyosaur vertebrae (0 Silver stars – Leedm.B.TN5126) cut and polished cross-section of articulated vertebrae, from an unknown location; possibly Yorkshire Lias, England.




A wonderful Ichthyosaur rib (0 Bronze stars – Leedm.B.TN1825) in relief on a mudstone matrix, with no data and low scientific value.




A beautiful Ichthyosaur skull (2 Silver stars – Leedm.B.1847.16) from Somerset, England. A framed and mounted historic specimen.


will with arch

Will reviewing the cast of Archaeopteryx

Three specimens worthy of a mention but not photographed here are:

A wonderful cast of Archaeopteryx (0 Gold stars – Leedm.B.2011.110).

An exquisite full skeleton of a small or juvenile Ichthyosaur, possibly Stenopterygius (1 Gold stars – Leedm.B.TN5273).

Two vertebrae from the Carboniferous amphibian, Pholiderpeton (2 Clear stars – Leedm.B.TN1170).



The review covered 245 specimens establishing the following summary.

vert summGold = A truly amazing specimen; Silver = A very good specimen that has great potential; Bronze = A good specimen which can demonstrate a particular feature; Clear = A specimen that has limited visual qualities.

3 stars = High scientific importance; 2 stars = Moderate scientific importance; 1 star = Fair scientific importance; 0 stars = Supported by limited or no documentation.


Summary of the Marine reptiles & Dinosaurs Review.



The historical nature of the collection, dating back to the 19th Century, make some of the specimens important not just for their scientific value but also for their own history and relationships with early geologists and collectors.  There are some important specimens in their own right too, including the Iguanodonts, the marine vertebrates.

The collection of Jurassic material is strongly represented by some Whitby & Yorkshire Coast material, but is predominantly made up of specimens from the Dorset Coast; consisting of a number Ichthyosaur, Plesiosaur and Pliosaur teeth and skeletal material, with four historic and rare – large scale specimens from significant UK sites.

Additionally, there are some unusual and interesting specimens: A Steneosaurus rostrum and partial skull material, a Hypselosaurus egg from France, large scale ripple beds with Chirotherium footprints, coprolites and Iguanodon skeletal material – that requires further investigation.

Historic casts of Archaeopteryx and the Thomas Hawkins Plesiosaur.


There are many unusual and/or interesting specimens that lack locality information. Sadly the loss of data on some prime specimens diminishes any research value, with minor pyrite decay.

A lack of Pliosaur material and little or limited ichnofossil footprints.

The Triassic and Cretaceous are both poorly represented, and apart from a few specimens from France and the USA, the entire collection is made up of UK material.

The fact the collection has not be actively added to for a number of years means that it is very much a historical collection with the problems that brings around conservation and also in terms of the patchy nature of how the material has been prepared and in some cases mounted. Compared to other regional museums (Yorkshire Museum and Manchester Museum for example) the collection is very small.


The Marine reptiles and Dinosaur specimens, along with all the other collections are open and free for anyone to view by appointment, just call Leeds Discovery Centre on 0113 378 2100 or email


I would like to take this opportunity to thank Will for a wonderful and exciting review over the three amazing days; it was a delight to reconstruct the dinosaur. I would also like to thank Glenn Roadley for all his help and contributions during the reconstruction on day two; and Dr. David Norman for his post review identifications and assistance.


Posted on May 17, 2015, in Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I praise your nice work that make this blog interesting in the Children Museum.
    Thanks for sharing an awesome blog that will help to the world for getting more info about Dinosaur.
    TREX for United States Children Museum


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