Palaeontologists have uncovered the remains of a 132-million-year-old dinosaur under a brick factory in the UK. The near-complete fossil skeleton once belonged to an Iguanodon, a large herbivorous beast that would have browsed the ancient forests of the early Cretaceous Period.
The impressive fossil was found during a routine visit to a quarry in Surrey by palaeontologists, when a bulldozer removing the rock used to produce bricks dislodged a piece of stone, which split open and revealed a plethora of bones. These were identified as being the tail vertebrae of a dinosaur and led the two researchers, from the Cambridge-based Fossil Galore center, to the side of the slope from which the rock originated, where they found even more black bones jutting out.
From this, they found more and more pieces of the fossil, leading the team to eventually excavate seven large blocks of rock thought to contain most of the dinosaur, which they nicknamed “Indie”. While they are yet to find its skull, they are hopeful that at least one of these will contain the head of the plant-eating animal.
“The extraction process wasn’t easy,” explains Jamie Jordan, founder of Fossil Galore, in a statement. “Indie was hidden inside huge compacted clay blocks and was on a slope, making the process difficult at times. However, due to the hard work of the Fossils Galore volunteers, we were able to extract and transport the remains to our preparation lab where we continue to work on her today.”
When alive, the Iguanodon would have been an impressive animal to observe. Measuring around 10 meters (33 feet) in length, standing 3 meters tall (10 feet tall), and weighing in at roughly 4.5 tons, it would have been equivalent in size to a modern-day African elephant. During the time it lived in what is now the UK, it would have been stalked by the fearsome Baryonyx.
While so far there are no clues as to how Indie met her end, Jordan has hinted that some of the bones show evidence of damage and healing, suggesting that she may once have been preyed upon by some hefty predator. This matches up well with the fossil footprints of therapod dinosaurs also discovered at the same site.
The team of researchers will continue their task of excavating the bones from the rock at the Fossil Galore center, where visitors can watch them through glass windows and ask questions about what Indie would once have been like.