Back in September, two of us from the group were fortunate enough to attend the first Jehol-Wealden International Conference held at the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton. This was a two day event comprising of a day of talks and posters followed by a day of field visits on the Isle of Wight to a few of the better known fossil localities.
For a more comprehensive report on the meeting please check out Stu Pond’s blog, Paleo Illustrata, and see just how much there that was going on. We were delighted to see so many familiar faces and I was glad to make some new friends as well.
We were very lucky that our day on the Isle of Wight was largely dry and the temperature was pleasant although, by the end of the day, some low cloud and a thickening sea mist made it quite murky. We visited Yaverland and Hanover Point and most people found a few bits of pieces, mostly rolled bone, although a couple of us managed to eke out a couple of lepidotid teeth. We were also very lucky that we got to see a large quantity of dinosaur footprints in situ and some of these were large and very impressive indeed – Martin Lockley commented that they were amongst the biggest he had ever seen.
However, the highlight, for me, was our visit to the Dinosaur Isle Museum on Culver Parade right near Yaverland. We were warmly welcomed by the staff and after a drink and a welcome speech by Steve Hutt we were able to check out all the exhibits on display – and very impressive some of them were too.
There were also some local collectors on site who were there to display some of their most recent finds - a couple of elements on display had only been found on that very morning. Chief amongst these was a superb ankylosaur specimen of which one of the spikes on display was very impressive indeed.
But the real stand out fossils on display were new specimens of what would appear to be Baryonyx sp. Stu Pond has already published one image over on his blog and I am delighted to share more images with you now. This must be the first decent UK skull material (that I am aware of) of a baryonychine since the original discovery of Baryonyx on the UK mainland back in 1983.
This appears to be a truly significant discovery since there are the remains of two individuals coming out of the quarry which is currently (and understandably) a secret location. The collector in question, who will remain nameless for obvious reasons, is currently preparing a lot of the material right now and he is genuinely hopeful (and very excited!) and believes that there is much more material from these two individuals to come to light.
I have been very fortunate to be able to observe the original material from the type specimen and I have to say, from my limited time with the new specimens, that they appear to be almost identical in many aspects to Baryonyx although, naturally, this would need to be quantified when the specimens are researched after preparation.
Either way, this is an extremely significant find and I look forward to more news of these specimens as they come to light. Overall the conference was very well received by those who were in attendance and there were already tentative whispers suggesting that this may become an on-going fixture – perhaps taking place every other year. But for now I suggest we let the organisers, particularly the industrious Gareth Dyke, a moment to reflect on a job well done and say how much we all enjoyed it.