Plesiosaur unveiled to Sir David Attenborough

The TCD specimen of the plesiosaur Attenborosaurus has spent the last few weeks being prepared and painted for eventual display in the geology museum.  The plesiosaur was renamed in 1993 to honour  Sir David Attenborough, who was recently awarded an honorary degree from TCD; we therefore took the fine opportunity to combine his visit with the unveiling of the newly prepared and painted specimen. Sir Attenborough was able to visit the Museum Building and take part in the grand unveiling himself, which took place in the main entrance hall. After an introduction from Dr Patrick Wyse Jackson, the curator of the geology museum, the fossil cast was finally revealed.

Sir David Attenborough discusses the TCD cast of Attenborosaurus with Dr Adam S. Smith (left) and Dr Patrick Wyse Jackson (right).

The completely prepared and painted TCD specimen of Attenborosaurus on temporary display in the museum building main hall.

Days before the unveiling, nearly finished! The specimen being painted. We chose dark paint to imitate the bone and a white background for the matrix to highlight the skeleton and to match the other casts in the museum. I used photographs and lithographs of the original specimen as a basis for the painting.

Sir Attenborough was especially delighted to be able to handle the skull, which is preserved in three dimensions. He also explained that the he has often walked along the Dorset coast where Attenborosaurus was discovered and joked that there is always a chance of truly ‘finding himself’ there now. A framed copy of the lithograph from Sollas’ original 1881 paper describing the specimen (Sollas 1881) was presented to Sir Attenborough who was kind enough to autograph a second copy, which will be framed to accompany the fossil cast once it is placed on exhibit in the geology museum in the new year.

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