Speeton Clay Dinosaurs


By Ted Wright.

The mention in Notes and Comments on page 69-70 of Humberside Geologist No. 11 about the find of the 'first dinosaur bone in the Speeton Clay' might, I think, be amplified. I remember Tom Sheppard referring to reptile bones occurring in the Compound Nodular Bed of the clays in the 20's or 30's and I seem to recall that my brother, Willy, and I found at least one vertebra. The impression left with me then was that all were thought to be from swimming saurians which might have been expected from marine deposits.

I was the more surprised therefore to find the long bones of a walking dinosaur's leg in a beach exposure of bed D7 in 1960. I had one of my nieces, Diane Wright (now Johnson), with me. It was late and the tide was coming in but we extracted as much as we could see. The bones : a femur, tibia and fibula were possibly articulated, but were cracked and came out in many pieces. When these were re-assembled they looked respectable; and Willy and I gave them to the Natural History Museum at South Kensington, where W.E.Swinton was still in charge of all the dinosaurs. This is the first printed notice of the find.

In 1989 my eldest grandson in Australia was showing an interest in dinosaurs; so I sent him the notes about the bones together with the museum's acknowledgement of the gift in 1960. When he was over here in 1993, I took him to see "Grandpa's dinosaur leg" in the reserve collection, by courtesy of Dr. Angela Milner, the curator. Stuck together, from many pieces, the bones looked a lot better than I had remembered them. She told me that it was not, as I had thought, a juvenile, but a leg of Iguanodon atherfieldensis and was from a grown individual of that species which is much smaller than its larger brother Iguanodon bernissantensis which has also been found in this country. The latter is most spectacularly displayed in the form of several mounted skeletons in the Royal Natural History Museum in Brussels. These were a focus of sight-seeing for the German soldiery on leave in the city during the occupation from 1940-45. I had the story in 1945 from the Director, V. van Straelen, who simultaneously had been running a printing press for the Resistance in the basement !

It is an interesting question to speculate how the possibly articulated leg bones of a land (or swamp) dwelling dinosaur ended up in a marine deposit such as the D Beds of the Speeton Clay. Had the leg or the body been carried down to the sea by a river perhaps ?

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