Press Centre

Dinosaur Britain

  • Episode: 

    1 of 2

  • Transmission (TX): 

    Mon 31 Aug 2015
  • TX Confirmed: 

  • Time: 

    9.00pm - 10.00pm
  • Week: 

    Week 36 2015 : Sat 29 Aug - Fri 04 Sep
  • Channel: 

  • Status: 

The information contained herein is embargoed from press use, commercial and non-commercial reproduction and sharing I nto the public domain until Tuesday 25 August. 
Series overview
Dinosaurs! The very word conjures up fascination and intrigue with millions of us dreaming of becoming a palaeontologist when we were younger. Yet few of us realise that over 50 different dinosaur species have been found in Britain.
Dinosaur Britain tells the amazing story of many of the dinosaurs that once roamed our country revealing how they hunted, what they ate and how they died from the evidence revealed from their bones.
Presenter Ellie Harrison, who fell in love with dinosaurs as a child, teams up with 25‐year‐old Dean Lomax, one of Britain’s youngest palaeontologists, to bring Dinosaur Britain to life as never before. Ellie and Dean come ‘face to face’ with incredible CGI dinosaurs against the backdrop of some of Britain’s most famous landmarks – including Big Ben and Stonehenge.
Britain has yielded one of the best dinosaur fossil records anywhere in the world. Giant Sauropods measuring over 20 metres – the length of two double decker buses – once lived throughout Britain.
Raptors, fast moving and carnivorous pack‐hunters, were discovered in Dorset – along with three types of Tyrannosaur. Huge teeth from the Iguanodon were discovered in Sussex while stegosaurs, with armoured plates positioned along their back, lived in Swindon and Peterborough.
From the world’s first dinosaur discovery in Stonesfield, Oxfordshire in 1824 to the most recent discovery – a new dinosaur species discovered in Wales in 2014 – Dinosaur Britain features the most fascinating dinosaur finds across Britain to tell an enthralling story 200 million years in the making.
Episode 1
“Ever since I was a child I’ve been fascinated by the idea of dinosaurs, but I never really thought about them having a connection with Britain. Amazingly, this country was once a paradise for dinosaurs with more than a fifty different species living here. Britain was a real life Jurassic Park.” Ellie Harrison
Dinosaur Britain tells the amazing story of many of the dinosaurs that once roamed our country revealing how they hunted, what they ate and how they died from the evidence revealed from their bones.
In this episode, we discover how dinosaurs were first identified as an entirely new species right here in Britain, how a piece of jaw bone revealed the ‘British raptor’ to be the size of a turkey, and how a completely new species, unique to Britain, was uncovered by an amateur fossil hunter on Charmouth beach.
Ellie’s journey into Dinosaur Britain starts at the Natural History Museum, which is at the centre of Britain’s dinosaur research. Palaeontologists here are confronted with a fascinating challenge: unravelling jumbled masses of bone to build a picture of a living, breathing dinosaur.
As Ellie leafs through draws full of dinosaur fossils she finds a huge claw and explains that it comes from the ‘find of the century’, the Baryonyx: one of the most complete dinosaurs ever found in Britain.
Discovered in Surrey, Baryonyx stalked the swamps and rivers of what is now southern England 125 million years ago. This dinosaur used its thumb claw like a hook to get prey out of the water, in the same way grizzly bears would with salmon. When Baryonyx was discovered, there was nothing else like it ‐ it was an insight into a new group of dinosaurs that nothing was known about prior to its discovery.
These prehistoric creatures lived on earth for a mind‐boggling 165 million years. That’s 850 times as long as modern humans have been on the planet. And yet, incredibly, only 200 years ago, no one even knew dinosaurs once roamed the earth.
Next, Ellie heads to the place where the very first bone in the world to be identified as a dinosaur was discovered, just north of Oxford, forty feet underground. Ellie heads down a slate mine where she explains how a miner came across this amazing discovery: “It was clearly part of a large jaw, filled with vicious looking teeth. But it was unlike anything that had ever been seen before anywhere on earth.”
Aher it was dug out the mine, it was moved to Oxford, where it still is today. Ellie meets palaeontologist and author Dean Lomax, an authority on British dinosaurs, to take a look at this ground‐breaking specimen.
Back when it was discovered, large fossilised bones had already been discovered in other parts of the world, but no one had any idea what they were. In China, they gave rise to the myth of dragons. In Britain, they were thought to belong to a race of giant humans.
Palaeontologist Dean explains how the findings were eventually categorised as dinosaurs: “Reverend William Buckland was a brilliant geologist and palaeontologist and very well respected. He started to study the teeth, and if you look closely you can see teeth coming through. He recognised this as a replacement tooth and realised that reptiles continually replace their teeth and thought this must be some huge extinct reptile.”
In 1824, Buckland named this find Megalosaurus, which means ‘great lizard’. It’s the world’s first ever recorded account of a dinosaur, and it lived right here in Britain 167 million years ago.
Ellie and Dean move on to inspect a specimen from one of the most notorious and vicious dinosaurs to ever walk the earth – a predator that hunted just a few miles south of Stonehenge, ‘Nuthetes destructor’ – the British raptor.
Unlike how it was depicted in Jurassic Park, Velociraptors were just three feet tall and about six and a half feet long. In comparison, Nuthetes was just the size of a turkey and, like most theropod meat‐eating dinosaurs, would have had feathers. Dean explains: “Modern birds are dinosaurs as well. They evolved from theropod dinosaurs. The feathers were probably for display, courtship or warmth.”
Ellie asks Dean whether the famous scene in Jurassic Park – where the raptor opens doors – could have been true. Dean reveals that unlike in the movie, raptors didn’t have ‘bunny hands’ and couldn’t have opened doors.
Scientists believe that dinosaurs are buried beneath our feet all over Britain, but it’s on our coastlines where they are most likely to be discovered. Many of the dinosaurs that have been discovered were found by amateur enthusiasts and ordinary families who happened upon a piece of bone, tooth or even footprint.
Stretching nearly 100 miles across Dorset and east Devon, the Jurassic coast is England’s first Natural World Heritage site. With exposed rock dating back 200 million years, severe storms and natural erosion can lead to the discovery of dinosaur bones that have been locked away for millions of years. This is where local amateur fossil hunter David Sole found something truly extraordinary on Charmouth beach.
David tells Ellie about when he discovered the remains of ‘Scelidosaurus’: “December 2000, we’d had a really good wet stormy night, and as I came along (the beach) I noticed some bits falling out of the cliff. There was a stone that just looked a bit different, odd. I knocked the corner off and found it was packed with bones. I checked back religiously over the next few days and found a piece that turned out to be the skull. It’s known locally as the Charmouth dinosaur – to date, there’s no certain record of it anywhere else in the world, so it’s unique to this area.”
Ellie heads to Bristol museum, where the remains are now held, to try and uncover why land‐based dinosaur Scelidosaurus ended up perfectly preserved on the sea floor. Professor of Palaeontology Mike Benton says: “It’s the most fantastic specimen. It’s quite unusual to find a dinosaur as complete as this. But it turns out it has another importance in that it’s the first armoured dinosaur that ever existed on the earth. The extraordinary thing is that all the bits are in the right places.”
Scelidosaurus was 13 feet long and an herbivore with armoured plates to protect it from predators 195 million years ago.
Staggered by what she’s discovered so far, Ellie says: “I’ve been amazed by the sheer variety of dinosaurs that once roamed Britain. The story of dinosaurs began right here in Britain, but my journey has only just begun…”