Wiltshire Publications

The Westbury Beast on display for the first time

This entry was posted on Tuesday, November 7th, 2017 at 10:45 am.

Doris the Pliosaurus

Afossil of a 150 million year-old Jurassic beast, which was discovered in Westbury in 1994, is on display for the first time at Bristol Museum & Art Gallery – along with a full sized interactive model of the 8-metre long pliosaur.

The exhibition runs until February next year and the White Horse News has  made enquiries to find out what will happen next for Westbury’s oldest resident. Could the interactive model (named “Doris” by Bristol Museum) or even the fossil itself be brought back to her home town for exhibition?

In response to our enquiries, town clerk Deborah Urch, said that the matter could be discussed at the next tourism group meeting, on Monday 13th November.

“It’s an exciting and scary prospect all at the same time,” she said. “While I think Doris would be a huge draw to the Laverton, I am concerned where we would put her for safe keeping in our community building. But if we can create the right conditions, it would not be insurmountable.”

Wiltshire Museum has also expressed their interest in bringing the specimen to the local area. Director of Wiltshire Museum, David Dawson said, “It would be lovely if we could bring the Pliosaurus carpenteri fossil to the area for local people to visit. We have the specialist facilities to look after the fossil. It remains to be seen if this will be possible.”

The discovery of its skeleton in Westbury was heralded  as the world’s only example of a new species of pliosaur – Pliosaurus carpenteri – named after Simon Carpenter who unearthed the fossil.

The Pliosaurus carpenteri was a fierce marine reptile that dominated the seas millions of years ago. Because of its size, it has taken ten years to prepare all the fossils that were found.

The ancient creature would have been between 8 to 8.5 metres long, the length of a bus, with sharp teeth the size of bananas,  four huge flippers and crushingly powerful jaws. The  pliosaur is thought to have been the ultimate underwater predator.

Despite missing three flippers and its tail, the specimen on display is one of the most complete pliosaurs ever discovered in the world and the only example of the new species, Pliosaurus carpenteri.

Laura Pye, head of culture at Bristol City Council said, “We’re delighted that our very special pliosaur is on display. She is the first of her species and is currently the only example known so she is very special. She is also a relatively complete fossil pliosaur. It is very unusual to have so much of a pliosaur preserved, making her very important to science and of international significance.”

Alongside the fossil, visitors can also enjoy a full-sized interactive model of an 8-metre long pliosaur, named Doris after a public vote. Isla Gladstone, senior curator of natural science at Bristol Museum & Art Gallery said, “Visitors will be able to touch her skin, listen to her heartbeat, and smell her disgusting breath! Meeting Doris will be an inspiring and memorable experience for all our visitors and although it’s aimed at children, we’re certain that adults are going to enjoy it in equal measure!”

In addition to the exhibition, a Jurassic Explorer guide will take visitors on a journey throughout the museum to discover more about Doris’ world – including exploring the dinosaur, geology and fine art galleries.

‘Pliosaurus! Face to face with a Jurassic Beast’ is open at Bristol Museum & Art Gallery until 18th February 2018.

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