Irish Dinosaur Remains

18 December 2020

Ireland does not seem to have many rock strata from the Jurassic or Cretaceous and has until now been devoid of dinosaur remains. A story in The Times of London from November 25th 2020 had an interesting piece sent in by Paul. An amateur fossil hunter picked up a black stone from a beach strewn with dark basalt pebbles in Co Antrim some 30 years ago. It went into his fossil collection together with another odd piece of rock which turned out to be petrified bone he came upon a year later. He looked these up in books and on the Net and decided, for himself, they had an origin in dinosaurs, and there it was left as he was an amateur. He died in 2007 and the two fossils were sent for scientific analysis and it seems his claim was right. They are indeed pieces of bone with an origin in dinosaurs. No doubt there are other amateur fossil hunters out there with valuable, as far as knowledge is concerned, pieces of dinosaur bone. These two examples ended up in the  hands of geologists and the analysis has now been published in the Proceedings of the Geologists Association, and has gone viral. Two species have been identified from the two pieces of bone. One, a Scalidosaurus, a big four legged plant eater, and Two, a Sarcosaurus, a fast moving meat eater. They belong to the Jurassic era. It seems that Roger Byrne, the fossil hunter, had long suspected they were dinosaur bones and this has now  been confirmed. Mineralisation turns bone to stone and there are many such examples to be picked from fields in the UK where Jurassic rocks are mixed with ploughed soil. People mistake them for objects other than bones as they do not have the texture of bones.

Another story in The Times [recently] concerns Darwin and flightless insects. He proposed that the survival of flightless insects, having presumably lost the ability of flight, was due to environmental factors, especially when it came to island habitats. Flying insects could be blow out to sea and lost whereas flightless insects were attached to land, and survived. Not a lot of attention has been paid to this subject over the last 160 years, we are told, but it seems 5 per cent of insects are flightless. Why would they evolve to fly and then lose the ability to fly? On windy  islands in the southern ocean flies seem to crawl in preference to flying, and moths do the same. Darwin thought they lost their ability to fly when it became too dangerous to fly, and dry land was too distant. In Origin of Species he mentions flightless insects on the islands of Madiera. However, a new study in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B seems to confirm Darwin was on the ball. Insects on islands could get blown away, far out to sea. Insects that remained on dry land, on islands, had a better chance of survival – particularly in the southern ocean. On some islands almost all insects are flightless as they were the survivors.

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