Jurassic World: The British Dinosaurs We Want in the Park

By Gerald Lynch on at

Dinosaurs! And scientists! And bubble pods! And a Star Lord! The first proper Jurassic World trailer has it all. Colin Trevorrow’s take on the classic pseudo-science, reptile-resurrecting franchise hits cinemas next year on June 12, 2015. But while its trailer gives us a good look at what seems to be a fully functioning, dino-filled theme park, we’re still not entirely sure which dinosaurs are going to be moping about behind those giant electric fences. Sure, there will be raptors, and that massive toothy goldfish thing, and the (dubious) “D-Rex” possibly, too. But three or four breeds a “Jurassic” park does not make.

Which got us thinking: what other dinosaurs would we like to see chomping on the heads of selfie-snapping tourists? And, specifically, which British dinosaurs should be stampeding through those iconic, lantern-lit gates.

Now of course, as we all (should) know, Britain as it exists now hadn’t really formed in the time of dinosaurs. The world was a kind of compressed hodge-podge of all the continents we have today, before the tectonic plates shifted into the formations we recognise now. Here, for instance, is how the world would have looked about 225 million years ago in the Triassic Period:

And here again, in the movie’s titular Jurassic period roughly 140 million years ago:

(Keep in mind that Spielberg and Crichton’s Jurassic Park cared little for the distinctions between these ages, and took a pick-and-mix approach to featuring history’s most fascinating dinosaurs for the movies and books, regardless of whether or not they would have actually existed millions of years apart.)

But while today’s Britain was only a glint in the eye of an eternity to come in the Jurassic period, we’ve still today got a good idea of where our place in the globe would have been and, thanks to decades worth of fossil finds and bone digs, which dinosaurs would have been walking around what would one day become Oxford Street hundreds of millions of years later.

Hollywood loves to shine a light on the dinosaurs that grew up in its backyard. It’s time to shine a light on the ones that once stomped around ours.

Baryonyx

  • Classification: Theropoda Spinosauridae
  • Time Period: Early Cretaceous
  • Where: Southern England
  • Meaning of Name: Heavy claw

Someone once told me that “Baryonyx” meant “bastard lizard”. That’s obviously not true, but Baryonyx certainly looked a bit of a sod. Measuring a massive 10 metres in length, it was the biggest meat eater of its time in Europe. But despite this, Baryonyx was a scavenger hunting only fish rather than other dinosaurs. It’s long, thin, crocodile-like snout had longer teeth towards the tip of its snout, while its arms were actually quite strong -- were you to eliminate jaws and pop a pair of boxing gloves on a Baryonyx it’d have had the T-Rex running scared.

Attenborosaurus

  • Classification: Plesiosauria / Plesiosauroidea
  • Time Period: Early Jurassic
  • Where: English Channel
  • Meaning of Name: Attenborough’s lizard

You know you’ve made it when you’ve got a dinosaur named after you, and who’s more deserving of the honour than Sir David Attenborough, the Father Christmas of natural historians. Attenborosaurus (I’m not making that up, it’s really its name) was a plesiosaur, a swimming reptile. Its remains have been found northern Europe’s coastline, but also the area that we’d now consider the English Channel. So we’ll claim it as one of our own. Measuring about 5 metres in length, it would have hunted fish, with an incredibly long neck in relation to its body.

Camelotia

  • Classification: Sauropodomorpha / Prosauropoda / Melanorosauride
  • Time Period: Triassic / Jurassic boundary
  • Where: Across England
  • Meaning of Name: From Camelot, King Arthur’s legendary castle

Another big guy, with another unbelievable name. Yep, at the Round Table of British dinosaurs, Camelotia would sit at the head (if a round table were to have a head). A leaf-eating high browser, the 9 metre-long Camelotia would have used strong hind legs and a long neck to reach up to the top branches of trees to chow down.

Dimorphodon

  • Classification: Pterosauria /Rhamphorhynchoidea
  • Time Period: Early Jurassic
  • Where: Dorset, England
  • Meaning of Name: Two types of teeth

Dorset’s own Dimorphodon was discovered in 1828 by Mary Anning, an avid fossil collector who found the first specimen among the cliffs of Lyme Regis. With a wingspan of just 1.4 metres, it would have been little bigger than your average seagull. But this fish-eating creature was remarkably strong for its size, with claws on its hands and feet that likely allowed it to cling to cliff sides, from which it would nest and swoop down on its prey. Though the most cleanly identifiable Dimorphodon specimens have been found in Dorset, other fossil finds also suggest it may have had colonies where the River Severn in Gloucestershire now is (or at least that its remains washed up there).

Megalosaurus

  • Classification: Theropoda / Tetanurae
  • Time Period: Middle Jurassic
  • Where: Across England (and some areas of France and Portugal)
  • Meaning of Name: Big lizard. Yep, keeping it simple

Though there’s never been a significant Megalosaurus specimen uncovered, bone fragments, jawbone pieces and teeth give a general impression of a hunter measuring around 9 metres in size. With large teeth and powerful hind legs, it would have stalked the shoreline for its prey, with its powerful jaws compensating for its wimpy arms. Megalosaurus remains have caused some confusion over the years, with some paleontologists now believing that some similar Eustreptospondylus remains have mistakenly been classified as Megalosaurus.

Cetiosaurus

  • Classification: Sauropoda / Cetiosauride
  • Time Period: Middle Jurassic
  • Where: The Midlands in England, as well as Portugal and possibly Morocco
  • Meaning of Name: Whale lizard

Cetiosaurus was Britain’s answer to the Brachiosaurus. You know -- the giant long-necked dinosaur that nearly makes Sam Neill throw up his breakfast at the start of the original Jurassic Park. The first sauropod to be discovered way back in 1825, its name comes from the whale-like nature of its backbone. Measuring 14 metres from the tip of its head, down its long neck and back and through to the tip of its tail, the Cetiosaurus must have weighed an incredible amount; scientists that have studied its bones have found that its vertebrae were not hollow, a weight-saving evolution that later sauropods enjoyed.

Anoplosaurus

  • Classification: Thyreophra / Akylosauria / Nodosauridae
  • Time Period: Late Cretaceous
  • Where: Cambridgeshire, England
  • Meaning of Name: Lizard without a weapon

As with some other dinosaurs on this list, Anoplosaurus remains have not been found in abundance, and so its classification and description is based upon guesswork from a few remains. A low-browsing herbivore, feasting on plants and low trees, Anoplosaurus is thought to have averaged around 5 metres in length, and would have been well protected along its back by shield-like plating and spiky bone protrusions.

Yaverlandia

  • Classification: Marginocephalia / Pachycephalosauria
  • Time Period: Early Cretaceous
  • Where: Isle of Wight, England
  • Meaning of Name: From Yaverland Point
One of the most disputed of all British dinosaur finds, all we know of Yaverlandia comes from a skull fragment. The thick nature of its skull suggests it would have been a kind of pachycephalosaur, no bigger than seven feet long. It would have used this skull to ram opponents, perhaps as part of a ritual to find a dominant pack leader ahead of getting it on with lady friends.

Lead Image Credit: Sentry on duty at Buckingham Palace (modified) from Shutterstock

Other Image Credits: Wikipedia (1, 2, 3, 4), Jurassic Park Wikia (1) Dinosaurs Wikia (1,2, 3) ES.Dino Wikia (1) Wiki Dino (1)