Tag Archives: Fossils

Wenlock Edge

The Wenlock Edge is a limestone escarpment that runs about 31km (19 miles) through the countryside of Shropshire.  At its northern point is the village of Much Wenlock and at the south Craven Arms.

Location & Access: Being such a long feature it isn’t that hard to miss on a map of Shropshire, basically look south of Telford and you should find it easily enough.  The road B4371 runs along the top of most of the Edge.  There are several car parks along the Edge as well as many paths to walk, so there are lots o places to visit depending upon your ability ad how long you want to be up there.  For me I like to pull in at a car park just north-east of the village of Presthope.  There is a nice walk along the top of a quarry.

Geology: The Wenlock Edge is made up of limestone and lime-muds from the Silurian Period (about 423-426ma).  The area used to be a reef and fossils are abundant along this walk.

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The fossils you can find there are mostly corals, crinoids and shell fragments.

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Above are some pictures of some of the fossils that can be found; mostly corals and fragments of shell.  It’s one of the best places in the county to go fossil hunting.  Pretty much every rock you pick up will contain something of interest.  Fossil collecting is allowed at the Edge, just try not to do too much damage as you do so and remember to leave something for those who will follow.

Along with fossils you can find places where you can see the results of sedimentation, bedding plains and folds (albeit in miniature).

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Other Stuff: Along with geology the Edge is a good place to enjoy the English countryside.  The area is a composite of mixed woodland and farmers fields full of livestock.

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It’s also a place of a lot of woodland wildlife.  Some of the birds that you’ll see include Blue, Great and Marsh Tits, all sorts of finches, Greater Spotter Woodpeckers, Nuthatches, Common Buzzards and I’ve even seen Red Kites on rare occasions.

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Reference: The Geology of Britain; An Introduction by Peter Toghill (2006),  Sedimentary Petrology (3rd Edition) by Maurice E. Tucker (2001), iGeology map from the BGS (2014) and the notice board from the site.

New Tyrannosaur – Qianzhousaurus

In case you haven’t heard a new member of the Tyrannosaur family has been announced last week from southern China – Qianzhousaurus sinensis.  This new beastie is from the late Cretaceous (70-66Ma) and has led to a revision of the Tyrannosaur family group.  A Tyrannosaur family?  Yep.  Most people are only familiar with the large Tyrannosaurus rex, in fact if you asked the average person on the street to name a dinosaur then T. rex is likely to be the first (and sometimes only) one they can recall.  The reality is that the Tyrannosaurs form an entire family of predatory dinosaurs (theropods), some small, some large.

The reason that Qianzhousaurus sinensis has made a change is that previously there were 3 main divisions in the Tyrannosaurs – early Tyrannosaurs found in both Europe & China (including Aviatyrannis jurassica from late Jurassic Portugal, the UK’s Eotyrannus lengi and China’s Dilong paradoxus).  These are characterised by their small size (often less than 1.5m in length), less powerful jaws and the presence of more than two figures seen in the later Tyrannosaurs.  Other features; in particular the shape & structure of the hip confirm that such small creatures are Tyrannosaurs and may represent the ancestors of the more familiar giants.  The second division is the Albertosaurinae which includes the species Albertosaurus sarcophagus and Gorgosaurus libratus.  Though larger (7-8m in length) these Tyrannosaurs are slender & graceful and are found in the western USA and Canada.  The age of the rock seems to suggest that A. sarcophagus and T. rex co-existed.  The final group is the Tyrannosaurinae and includes the largest members; T. rex, Tarbosaurus bataar, Daspletosaurus torosus and the much smaller Nanotyrannus lancensis.  These Tyrannosaurs have the familiar two-fingered hand and large skull with the powerful, bone crushing jaws.

So where does the new  Q. sinensis fit in?  Well there are a few Tyrannosaurs of uncertain lineage; Alectrosaurus olseni and Alioramus remotus.  Both are from Mongolia and although their features point to them being Tyrannosurs, they showed some different skull characteristics.  To illustrate my point take a look at the images below.

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This skull is of the T. rex.  It has the familiar big, bulky shape that so many people think of.  Now compare this to the skull of A. remotus.

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A. remotus’ is much thinner and longer, and has a characteristic set of bumps on the top of the skull.  This was only to be found in A. remotus, but no other Tyrannosaur.  Well have a look at the skull of Q. sinensis.

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The skull is long, thin and has nose bumps similar to A. remotus.  This suggests that the two creatures are more closely related to each other than to other Tyrannosaurs.  Thus there is another branch in the Tyrannosaur family tree – one of longer snouted predators.  This is cool, and if you’re into dinosaurs as much as I am is really exciting (what did you expect, I’m running a blog called geogeek).

If you want to know more, the Wikipedia entries of Tyrannosaurs aren’t too bad.  If you want a more serious publication then I can highly recommend The Dinosauria (2nd edition) edited by David B. Weishampel, Peter Dodson and Halszka Osmolska (2004).  I know it’s a few years old, and could do with a third editon to include some of the more recent discoveries, but it is a very comprehensive tome and is a must for the more grown up dinosaur lover.  And of course all recent discoveries are published in the relevant peer reviewed journals.

Just to clarify, the images of the Tyrannosaurus and Alioramus skulls came from Wikipedia, whilst the the images of Qianzhousaurus came from sci-news.com.  The extra information in the text came from above mentioned The Dinosauria.