Natural History Museum acquires world's most complete Stegosaurus fossil skeleton

By Culture24 reporter | 17 November 2014

A Stegosaurus skeleton will be the Natural History Museum in London's latest addition to its impressive dinosaur displays

a photo of a reconstructed skeleton of a dinosaur
© Courtesy NHM
For the first time in nearly 100 years, the Natural History Museum in London is to add the first complete dinosaur specimen to its display. 

The original 150 million-year-old Stegosaurus stenops fossil is the most significant dinosaur the museum has acquired since the 1980s - and the only Stegosaurus in a public collection outside the USA.

It will take pride of place next to the museum’s famous Diplodocus, inside the museum's Exhibition Road entrance from December 2014.

Unlike the much loved Dippy, the Stegosaurus is not a cast, but an original fossil unearthed in 2003 at the Red Canyon Ranch in Wyoming, USA by dinosaur hunter Bob Simon.

The skeleton is 560 centimetres long and 290 centimetres tall, similar in size to a 4x4 vehicle, and has more than 300 bones. It was found virtually complete, with only the left arm and base of the tail missing.

Describing the new acquisition as an “extraordinary specimen”, Professor Paul Barrett, the museum's lead dinosaur researcher, said Stegosaurus fossil finds are rare.

"Having the world’s most complete example here for research means we can begin to uncover the secrets behind the evolution and behaviour of this intriguing dinosaur species," he added.

With its distinctive back plates, the giant herbivore is one of the most recognisable dinosaurs from the Late Jurassic period of 155 to 150 million years ago.

Since its arrival in December 2013 from private facilities in Switzerland and the USA, scientists have been taking measurements, photographs, laser surface scans and CT scans of the skeleton to find out more about its life.

As well as the 19 plates on the back it has four spikes on the tail - the most complete set ever discovered. All of the individual skull bones are three-dimensional and detached from each other, making it one of the most scientifically valuable dinosaur skulls ever found.

This means scientists can study the skull as never before, closely examining individual fossils to determine eating habits and bite strength. Its sex is not known, but the animal was a young adult when it died.

“We are extremely grateful to the 70 generous donors, with particular thanks to Jeremy Herrmann, who made this iconic acquisition possible” said Sir Michael Dixon, Director of the Natural History Museum.
 
“It inspires genuine wonder when you see it, but unlike our much-loved Diplodocus cast, this is the real thing.

"We hope that this amazing specimen will inspire a new generation of young visitors to learn more about the natural world and our place within it.”

The specimen has been named in honour of Jeremy Hermann’s daughter, Sophie Herrmann.


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