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The Return of British Dinosaurs



I must admit I have never felt like doing rave reviews of paleomeetings
here in England. For some reason the stuffiness and formalities  always
get in the way. This, I'm glad to report, might just be about to change.

I'm just back from a seminar organised by the Palaeontological
Association and co-hosted by the Dinosaur Isle Museum and the University
of Portsmouth. The one day seminar was followed by a field trip around
some of the best sites in the Isle of Wight.
At first glance it was a hastily organised affair, with very little
resources and time. However it turned into a memorable, rather well
organised international Paleo-event  with plenty of students attending
(>really interested< students I mean); the first one I attend around
here that I feel that actually could rival any SVP meeting (at least in
general atmosphere).
The first day was a series of 30 minute talks on (mostly) British and
European dinosaurs given at a breakneck pace by an all-star  cast .
There was almost everyone from David Martill, David Norman (Iguanodon),
Angela Milner (Baryonyx) and Michael Benton to Darren Naish, Paul
Upchurch, John Martin, Eric Buffetaut, a delegation from Spain headed by
Angel Galobart (that had technical problems and had to improvise a lower
key presentation at the museum at a later time... At least they could
gave the talk and were applauded by it. Spain is really starting to show
its incredible Dinosaurian wealth!) and (from the other  side of the
ocean) Jim Kirkland closed the proceedings, illustrating the
similarities of faunas across continents with England at the faunal
crossroads.
If I had to choose highlights I'd go obviously for Darren's brilliant
summary of coelurosaurian dinosaurs, the sauropod and ornithischian
summaries by Paul Upchurch and Paul Barrett respectively, the
informative French Cretaceous dinosaurs by Buffetaut and the very very
long (he could have gone on for ages, and with more than one reason)
tour de resistance by Jim Kirkland, comparing Utah dinosaurs with
British ones in general and finally confessing he is fed-up with
Utahraptor. Still that Utahraptor leg he showed us was... massive!

The meeting was culminated by a nibble-full reception at the Dinosaur
Isle Museum (great Neovenator skeleton exhibited there... the real thing
in Darren's words) where some of us as exhibitors, researchers and
fossil collectors could improvise and hang posters, artwork and (most of
all) be treated to a truly outstanding  full-fledged exhibition of the
most incredibly preserved- semi articulated-fossil specimens of
Scelidosaurus ever found. The scutes ran down the side of the legs
almost to its ankles and had horns at the back of the skull that made it
look almost like a ram. We could have been hanging out there for ages!

What was evident is that the general atmosphere that was being created
was the right one and everything was mostly thanks to the Dinosaur Isle
Museum staff in general but in particular to the extraordinary
improvisational-organisational skills of Martin Munt and Dr. David
Martill... finally showing that becoming a TV star can also be useful.
My only criticism was that the talks were overlong and there was almost
no interval between them. Too intense perhaps for just one day (9 'till
6 in the afternoon and then the reception).

But I felt the talks were just a warm up. The relaxed atmosphere
contributed to an extraordinary field trip next day all around the
island. I specially liked the visit to the small (but in many ways
better) Dinosaur Farm museum where we could see casts of the new
juvenile brachiosaur  among many other things. Thanks to the excellent
weather the perfect day day finished with whole armies of well behaved
paleontologists getting along, quietly roaming the beaches and finding
the biggest Iguanodon footprints ever... that without taking in
consideration that Eric Buffetaut also found a Baryonyx tooth!
I'm sure this time Channel Four or the BBC missed a thing or two.

This meeting could be just the start of something important around here
and in the paleo world in general. Let's hope so!


Luis Rey

Visit my website on http://www.ndirect.co.uk/~luisrey