As a young boy, like so many others, I had a fascination with dinosaurs – in no small thanks to the film Jurassic Park! I still find them intriguing today and the recent finding of an amber sample complete with a feathered tail discovered in Myanmar got me thinking about Yorkshire’s dinosaurs.
Britain’s oldest dinosaur fossil was found right here in Yorkshire – Whitby to be precise. Found on the beach after it fell out of the cliff face, the backbone dates to the Middle Jurassic period around 176 million years ago. The bone belonged to a Sauropod and represents the earliest skeletal record of this type of dinosaur in the UK. Sauropods had a small head, long neck and tail and walked on all fours, with some species in the group growing up to 35 metres long. This fossil is an extremely rare find as Middle Jurassic rocks are exposed in very few areas of the world and most fossils of a similar age have been found in China and South America.
Although it is extremely unlikely you would find another dinosaur bone on the Yorkshire Coast, it is an excellent area to find plenty of fossils – probably the second most popular in the UK. In the lower Jurassic period Britain was much closer to the equator and the Yorkshire Coast was submerged under a warm tropical sea. Due to earth movements, the sea became shallower over time and by about 160 million years ago, it was more like a river delta with swamps. Older rocks are generally found in the north of the coast with rocks getting younger the further south you go. Common fossils you can find on our coast are ammonites, belemnites, plant remains and excitingly dinosaur footprints. The best place to look for dinosaur footprints is Burniston Bay near Scarborough. Less common discoveries are fossilised vertebrae from reptiles and bivalves which are ancient shellfish. Cayton Bay, Speeton, and Robin Hood’s Bay are all excellent fossil hunting spots but the whole stretch of our coastline yields finds – you just have to look carefully!
If hunting along the coastline is not for you, the Yorkshire Museum in York has some interesting displays including a set of footprints under a glass floor and three huge sea reptiles including a giant ichthyosaur as well as lots of fossils. For the children is Dinostar in Hull, Yorkshire’s only dinosaur visitor attraction which includes a Tyrannosaurus Rex skull and lots of dinosaur bones you can touch.
Dinosaurs continue to intrigue and amaze as new discoveries are still being uncovered around the world and scientists are still learning all the time about these amazing creatures. It is wonderful to know that Yorkshire’s rich history includes them too!