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The Bristol Dinosaur build begins

Thecodontosaurus antiquus

Thecodontosaurus antiquus © Robert Nicholls

Press release issued: 26 September 2013

Bristol's very own dinosaur Thecodontosaurus will start to come to life this Tuesday when local artist Robert Nicholls and University of Bristol dinosaur expert Pedro Viegas begin work on a full-size replica of the beast at M Shed.

Members of the public are welcome to drop in and watch their progress throughout the build which runs until the end of November 2013; admission free.

The recreation of Thecodontosaurus is the culmination of a three and a half year project run by the University of Bristol and funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.  The replica will be based on the very latest scientific discoveries about how the dinosaur would have looked when it roamed around Bristol 210 million years ago.

Thecodontosaurus was first uncovered in a quarry on Durdham Down, Bristol in 1834 and was only the fourth dinosaur to be discovered in the world.  Its bones are now on display at Bristol Museum & Art Gallery and M Shed.  During the 1970s more bones were unearthed at a quarry in Tytherington, South Gloucestershire.  These bones are now in the care of the University of Bristol.  In 1999 the Bristol Dinosaur Project was founded to discover more about the bones. 

Two earlier models of the dinosaur, dating from the 1980s, exist at the University of Bristol's School of Earth Sciences and a larger model, built in the 1970s, is currently on display in Bristol Museum & Art Gallery.

Both models reflect earlier assumptions about the dinosaur – for instance, the mistaken belief that it was a carnivore – and the environment it would have lived in.  Advances in scientific knowledge since then have allowed researchers to study the remains in far greater detail and thus learn much more about how the dinosaur looked, walked and fed.  It was through detailed analysis of the dinosaur's teeth that scientists discovered Thecodontosaurus was actually a herbivore.    

A series of free public talks by University of Bristol scientists about some of these discoveries, their laboratory work and their research will take place during the build.

The Bristol Dinosaur History, talk by Professor Mike Benton

Saturday 12 October, 11.30, University of Bristol; and Saturday 30 November, 11.30, Bristol University – Room G25

180 years ago, workmen found some large bones in a Bristol quarry, but had no idea what they had found. Since 1834, new work at the University of Bristol has shed a great deal of light onto the life and times of this truly ancient and internationally important dinosaur.

Discovering the Colour of Dinosaur Feathers, talk by Professor Mike Benton

Saturday 19 October, 11.30, University of Bristol – Room G25 ; and Saturday 30 November, 15.00,  Studio 2, M Shed

In new work at the University of Bristol, scientists have identified the original colour of dinosaur feathers. Hear the story from one of the discoverers, a real detective story in the study of ancient life.

The Evolution of Giant Plant Eating Dinosaurs, talk by David Button, PhD

Saturday 26 October, 11.30, L Shed

The Bristol dinosaur may have been small, but its giant descendants were the largest animals to ever have walked the Earth. See how a combination of cutting-edge and classical techniques are helping us to understand how these giant dinosaurs lived, moved, fed and evolved.

Discovering Bristol´s Very Own Dinosaur: a walk through time, Guided tour around key points in Bristol by Steve England

Saturday 2 November; for bookings contact:

Find out more about the history of Bristol and its very own Dinosaur.   Learn who the dinosaur was and how it lived 210 million years ago.  Find out about the Naturalists that discovered the bones and how it influenced the formation of the Downs as they are today.

The Evolution of Ostrich-Mimicking Dinosaurs, talk by Andrew Cuff, PhD

Saturday 9 November, 11.30, University of Bristol – Room G25

A look through the evolution of an enigmatic theropod clade as they lose their teeth and evolve beaks whilst changing their diets from carnivory to herbivory.

How to build a Dinosaur, talk by Pedro Viegas and Bob Nicholls

Saturday 16 November, 11.00 and 15.00 - L Shed

Ever wondered how they make the animals you see on display in museums? Ever wondered how Dinosaurs are mounted, moulded and put into an exhibit? For the first time in the UK everyone is allowed to see behind the curtains on a dinosaur build.  Join Pedro Viegas and Bob Nicholls and talk to master cast experts while they build Bristol´s very own dinosaur.

Dinosaur Diversity in the British Isles, talk by Dean Lomax, PhD

Saturday 23 November, 11.30, Studio 2, M Shed

If you were asked to name a dinosaur chances are you would give a foreign example, such as Tyrannosaurus or Velociraptor.  Sadly, despite many species being discovered in the British Isles, the name dinosaur has somewhat been 'lost'.  In fact, the name was even created in England! This talk will give a brief overview of the many important dinosaur discoveries made in the British Isles.

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