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Britain was the real Jurassic Park - 140 million years ago

April 13, 2008 18:21 IST

Britain was one of the world's original Jurassic parks about 140 million years ago, researchers have claimed.

Researchers have identified 108 species found since the first discovery was named in 1824 and believe that the variety of creatures make Britain an important area for dinosaur remains.

"We're probably in the top five places in the world for concentrations of dinosaurs," said Darren Naish, a vertebrate paleontologist at Portsmouth University and one of the researchers who carried out the study.

"We've got large numbers of Middle Jurassic and Early Cretaceous period species, including long-necked dinosaurs and predators such as spinosaurs and velociraptors."

The review, which has taken three years and is published in the Journal of the Geological Society, documents every known species and genus of dinosaur known to have lived in Britain, from 200 million to 65 million years ago.

The scientists admit that the number of species found may partly be explained by the long-standing popularity of dinosaur fossil hunting.

"People in Britain have been finding dinosaur fossils for longer than anywhere else but we have an exceptionally large number here," Naish said.

In the years since 1819, experts have excavated everything from jaw bones to dinosaur egg shells at sites ranging from the Scottish Highlands and islands to the south coast of England. The most productive areas include Oxfordshire, the southern coast of the isle of Wight, Dorset and the shore near Bristol.                        

The most complete remains include a scelidosaurus found in 1860 in the Black Ven cliffs near Lyme Regis, Dorset, on what has come to be known as the 'jurassic coast'.

According to the report, Britain's indigenous species include stegosaurus, which had distinctive armour plates, as well as predatory theropods and vegetarian sauropods.

Mike Benton, professor of vertebrate palacontology at Bristol University, was cautious about singling out Britain as an exceptional dinosaur location.  "The UK has produced the oldest fossils of a few dinosaur groups... but who knows what might come out of China or Africa in the next decades?"

H S Rao in London
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