Saturday, 15 November 2014

Plates, spikes and a brain the size of a plum ...

At long last I can finally reveal to my friends and colleagues why it has taken me much longer than usual to respond to those emails, admin and specimen requests, and why my contributions to our joint grant and research projects have been somewhat tardy. For the past year, I’ve been heavily involved in a secret museum project: the acquisition of a spectacular new dinosaur specimen. With the publication of a piece in The Telegraph today, the embargo has come to an end, and I can now announce that the Natural History Museum has succeeded in acquiring a skeleton of the iconic Jurassic North American dinosaur Stegosaurus stenops, the most complete skeleton known for this species. The new skeleton is going on permanent public display in the NHM on 4th December 2014.

Our new Stegosaurus skeleton, laid out to show all of the elements together and giving an impression of its overall scale. Around 90% of the specimen is present, including an almost complete disarticulated skull and an essentially complete set of plates.

The specimen has been in London since late 2013. Since then, Charlotte Brassey, Susannah Maidment and I have been crawling over every inch of the skeleton to gather basic anatomical data using traditional methods, CT scans, 3-D laser scans and more. We’re currently preparing a series of papers on Stegosaurus anatomy and biology, the first of which are close to submission. This work is being carried out with a number of other colleagues, all of whom were sworn to secrecy (we’ve all been operating under non-disclosure agreements to save our thunder for the unveiling), and whose roles will be revealed as our papers start to come to fruition. Charlotte and I have also been very heavily involved in all other aspects of the project, which includes the specimen installation, interpretation and forthcoming public programme, so it will be great to finally see the skeleton in its full glory in a couple of weeks time. It’s been a hectic and exhausting, but exciting and rewarding, experience - especially while trying to conduct the work discreetly while fulfilling my various other duties at the museum and elsewhere.

Watch this space for more details. The specimen will be mounted in the Earth Hall (Exhibition Road entrance, at the base of the escalator leading into the large globe) and will greet visitors as they arrive. A big thank you to all of those that have helped so far and who have also indulged my delays on so many recent occasions! I'll reveal more over the course of the next few months.