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I return from 'Mary Anning' country.
Lyme Regis has as its most famous palaeontological stop - after the beach itself
- a shop called the 'Old Forge Fossil Shop'. Their window display includes a
cast of _Oviraptor philoceratops_ (the name on the label now changed from the
previous '_Ovaraptor_' - but the animal is still billed as an ovivore) and the
skull of 'Stan' the _Tyrannosaurus_. Fantastic stuff. But if I want to look at
dinosaurs I'll go to the BM.. Lyme Regis is ichthyosaur country.
And the place is absolutely packed full of them. New discoveries are made pretty
often, and you only have to talk to fossil shop owners to find out something
new. One recent discovery is the back half of a _Temnodontosaurus platyodon_
skull: a big, robust creature with stout conical teeth and a gently upcurved
rostrum. The skull was sadly not on display at the time of my visit, nor was
another recent find: a small ichthyosaur that has huge orbits and a short snout.
If you ask the workers, most have heard about this one (it was announced in
national press last year), but nothing seems to be known about publication.
Apparently it is not a juvenile (large eyes and short snout both being juvenile
characteristics) nor should it be confused with either _Parvinatator_ or
_Hudsonelpidia_ - two other recently discovered late Trias-Lias big-eyed, short-
snouted small ichthyosaurs. Another recent discovery that was on display last
time I was there - but not this time - is a huge hybodont shark. The animal is
about 4 m long and sports highly conspicuous cranial horns.
Big news is the discovery of a new species of _Excalibosaurus_. _E. costinii_,
the type species, was described by Chris McGowan some years ago and is a
probable descendant of the _Leptonectes tenuirostris_-_Eurhinosaurus_ lineage.
There is a trend in this group for the upper jaw to increase in length (in _E.
costinii_ it is about four times the length of the lower) and for flipper and
tail proportions to become of higher aspect. _Excalibosaurus_ - named in honour
of the mythical sword Excalibur - was a veritable swordfish of its day.
Amazingly, the new species apparently has an even *longer* upper jaw. I wonder
if it will exceed the phenomenon rostral proportions seen in the longest-
snouted of all cetaceans, _Zarhachis_ - a platanistoid from the Miocene of east
coast N. America.
Lyme Regis also sports a museum which holds the type material of both
_Scelidosaurus_ and _Dimorphodon macronyx_. These are not new to me, but I was
truly astounded to discover something there I have never noticed before: an
original Giovanni Caselli piece of artwork. One of the most famous depictions
of Jurassic sea life, this painting is best known from Halstead's _The Evolution
and Ecology of the Dinosaurs_. It features a _Liopleurodon_ grabbing a
metriorhynchid, a cruising _Cryptoclidus_ and two leaping ichthyosaurs.
An accompanying caption tells how the painting was donated by Halstead, but it
is incorrectly described as having been painted by Jenny Halstead (Bev's wife).
(With all due respect to Mrs. Halstead, her paintings were not exactly on par
with those of Caselli). This may have been a confused reference to another
illustration on the wall: a christmas scene where a _Tsintaosaurus_ is carrying
a young child on its back, and has a sprig of holly stuck in the little notch
on the top of its crest. Its stripes read 'Merry Xmas'.
"Did you find him?"
"Only the bits they didn't like"
The countdown continues: 11