Press Centre

Dinosaur Britain

  • Episode: 

    2 of 2

  • Transmission (TX): 

    Tue 01 Sep 2015
  • TX Confirmed: 

  • Time: 

    8.00pm - 9.00pm
  • Week: 

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

  • Status: 

    Last in series
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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 2
Off the west coast of Scotland, 130 miles away from Edinburgh, the Isle of Skye has become one of the most exciting dinosaur hotspots in the whole of the UK. In 1982, evidence of the first Scottish dinosaurs were discovered here.
Ellie Harrison and palaeontologist Dean Lomax head off to see a massive bone from the biggest animal to have walked the planet – with long tails and long necks, these awe‐inspiring creatures roamed the whole of Britain. Ellie and Dean inspect the bone, from the creatures’ upper arm, which suggests it’s from a sauropod up to 65 feet long – the equivalent of two double decker buses. Dean explains: “They may have been about 40 tonnes, the weight of ten African elephants. These would have been earth shakers.” Amazingly, however, these beasts hatched from eggs similar in size to an ostrich.
As well as teeth and bones, dinosaur tracks have been discovered imprinted in rock along the coastline of the Isle of Skye, North Yorkshire coast and on the Isle of Wight. Tracks in Scotland reveal large footprints next to smaller ones of the same species leading palaeontologists to believe that dinosaurs cared for their young and walked in herds.
Not all of Britain’s dinosaurs were enormous beasts like these – some of the world’s smallest dinosaurs lived here too. Dean reveals a tiny footprint found on Skye, the smallest in the Western world, probably just 20 centimetres in length and a tiny meat‐eater.
There’s one place in Britain where more dinosaurs have been found than anywhere else in Europe. It’s known as Dinosaur Island – the Isle of Wight.
In Cretaceous times, the islands weather alternated between floods and drought. The swampy conditions of the wet season provided the ideal environment for preserving dinosaur remains. Today, the southern coast of the island is constantly eroding into the sea. As the cliffs crumble, new finds are being made all the time and these discoveries are essential in furthering dinosaur science.
Ellie heads to the Dinosaur Isle museum to meet palaeontologist Darren Naish. He’s found dramatic evidence of a real fight for survival. Darren’s conducted a forensic analysis of damaged bones, one of the most unusual finds to ever come from the Isle of Wight’s cliffs. Darren says: “The animals were found with their bones jumbled together. What’s really interesting is that they preserve an extraordinary number of features that tell us exactly what happened during their lives.”
These bones belong to the herbivore Mantellisaurus, and one of Britain’s most ferocious predators, Neovenator. Darren continues: “Mantellisaurus was a large rotund herbivore, with a horse‐like head but a bird‐like beak at the end. Neovenator would have been an awesome, giant, scary carnivore. This is an animal with fairly long arms, big three‐clawed hands, numerous large serrated teeth. It’s a predator that’s going to be grabbing things with its hands before moving in and making numerous horrible slashing bites. So quite a nasty, efficient predator.”
Darren reveals that the Mantellisaurus fossils reveal injuries consistent with an anack from a Neovenator: “On top of the spine, you can see these large score marks. It’s hard to imagine what they could be, unless they’re bite marks from a Neovenator tooth. You’ll notice there’s no evidence this was healing, so this happened either as it died or at the time of death. It gives us an exceptional insight into the life histories of these two animals.”
Next, Ellie heads to London’s Natural History Museum to learn more about Britain’s own tyrannosaur. Tyrannosaurus rex has only been found in North America, but the story of this monster man‐eater began here in Britain.
T.rex is a descendent of Britain’s tyrannosaur, which is only a quarter of the size. The Proceratorsaurus roamed Britain 166 million years ago, whereas its descendent the T.rex lived just 66 million years ago – meaning it’s actually closer to humans in time than it is to this British tyrannosaur. Over millions of years, the creature gradually got larger and larger, enabling them to take down massive beasts like Triceratops.
To find out more, Ellie meets with Steve Brusatte to see the oldest Tyrannosaur’s skull, discovered in Gloucestershire during an excavation of a reservoir in 1910. Steve explains: “This was a humble dinosaur, it was not a ‘top of the food chain’ animal. There’s features here that are only seen in T.rex. We think these tyrannosaurs were eating small lizards, small amphibians. About 80 million years later, when the other dinosaurs that were at the top of the food chain for some reason became extinct, tyrannosaurs took advantage and grew to huge sizes and ascended to dominance.”
Ellie’s journey around Dinosaur Britain concludes with the revelation that a new dinosaur species has been discovered in Wales and is about to be released publically for the first time – a dinosaur so new, it hasn’t yet been named.
Discovered by brothers and amateur enthusiasts Nick and Rob Hanigan, Ellie arrives in Cardiff at the National Museum of Wales to find out more.
Ellie meets Dave Martill, who believes this may be the oldest Jurassic dinosaur ever discovered. Dave reveals: “What I can say about this animal is that it was very slenderly built, it had a long tail, but it was very fierce. Quick, agile, very good eyes, very tiny teeth, but sharp – you really wouldn’t want to put your fingers in its mouth.”
From the world’s first dinosaur discovery in Stonesfield, Oxfordshire in 1824 to this most recent discovery, Ellie has been on a journey 200 million years in the making and reflects: “This has been a truly incredible adventure. I’ve discovered that Britain really was the land of the dinosaurs.”