The Isle of Wight’s profile as “Dinosaur Capital of Britain” has just been given another mammoth boost.
It is already widely recognised as the best place in Europe to follow in the footsteps of Dinosaurs or go fossil hunting along its sandy beaches, and was named in 2013 by The Natural History Museum as the “Dinosaur Capital of Britain”.
Now the Island is back in the headlines once again – thanks to the discovery of fossilised remains of a giant prehistoric creature with a wingspan of at least 20 feet.
The giant pterosaur fossil, known as Hatzegopteryx, lived about 125 million years ago and could be one of the biggest species ever to fly.
Pterosaurs are actually a separate species to regular Dinosaurs, and were the first backboned animals to evolve powered flight. They emerged about 228 million years ago and dominated the air for 160 million years. The fossilised pterosaur found on the Isle of Wight is thought to have been one of the earliest species to reach such monstrous sizes.
When the Natural History Museum launched its map of Dinosaurs “hotspots” it highlighted how the Island was once “infested” by Dinosaurs five times longer than London buses, as well as predators with five-inch claws.
More than 100 species of Dinosaur have been found across the whole of the British Isles – from 54-tonne Sauropods, to tiny Echinodons which were no bigger than a cat – but the rock on what is now the Isle of Wight is the undisputed Dinosaur Capital of Britain.
As well as having yielded the neck bone of a Sauropod, a mighty beast which would have been more than 20 meters in length, the Island was also home to Europe’s deadliest predator, a giant saw-toothed Neovenator. Discovered by palaeontologists in 1978, this little monster would have been 8 meters in length – with a mouth full of razor-sharp teeth, and five inch claws.
These days, The Isle of Wight is a peaceful, picturesque south coast resort chosen by Queen Victoria as the place for her own holiday home, at Osborne. But 125 million years ago, it was home for a terrifying range of predators and other huge beasts.
Proof of the Island’s rich ecosystems, stretching back 65 million years, can be found along the coast through fossils and dinosaur footprints: something which was recognised earlier this year when the Island gained UNESCO Biosphere Reserve status.
And visitors wanting to get up-close-and-personal with them have various options, all of which are outlined on a special section of the Visit Isle of Wight website: from the first Dinosaur Visitor Attraction and Museum, through to “The Fossil Man”. Further details including fossil hunting trips can be found at https://www.visitisleofwight.co.uk/things-to-do/attractions/dinosaurs-and-fossils/history.
During the winter months, its coasts are pounded by storm waves which can reveal new geology and fossils. Close to Dinosaur Isle Museum the Cretaceous rocks are gradually worn away by the sea to reveal fresh cliff-falls and new fossils; and guided walks take visitors along the foreshore at Yaverland, exploring for fossils from the time of the Dinosaurs.
Dinosaur Isle is open 7 days a week and there are guided fossil walks throughout the year at Sandown, Shanklin and at Compton Bay. Booking is essential for fossil walks, call 01983 404344 between 10am and 3pm to book and pay. Fossil walk rates: Adults £5, children (ages 3 to 15) £4, Concession £4, Family (2+2) £16.50, Family (2+3) £19.50 (http://www.dinosaurisle.com/newhomepage.aspx).
For further information, visit https://www.visitisleofwight.co.uk.