Dorset

Thatcher cartoonist Gerald Scarfe is Dorset fossil namesake

  • 21 November 2011
  • From the section Dorset
Gerald Scarfe's caricature of Margaret Thatcher - 'Torydactyl'
Image caption Gerald Scarfe depicted Margaret Thatcher as a 'Torydactyl'

The fossil of a prehistoric flying reptile discovered in Dorset has been named after satirical artist Gerald Scarfe.

The political cartoonist was chosen because of his caricatures of Margaret Thatcher which depicted her as a pointy-nosed "Torydactyl".

The 13in (33cm) long pterosaur, discovered in Kimmeridge Bay, has been named Cuspicephalus scarfi.

It had a long, pointed head which is unusual for a pterosaur.

The specimen is 155 million years old, from the late Jurassic period, and is believed to be the most substantial pterosaur skull to be found in the UK for nearly 200 years.

Mr Scarfe said: "I'm thrilled and flattered - I never thought Mrs Thatcher would do anything for me - even if it is to be immortalised as a 155-million-year-old fossil.

"I have spent many holidays in Kimmeridge and to think my namesake was buried beneath my feet is wonderfully bizarre."

The species was found by fossil collector Steve Etches, and identified by University of Portsmouth palaeontologist Dr David Martill.

Image caption Dr David Martill described the recent fossil discovery as 'unique'

It is now on display in Dorset's Museum of Jurassic Marine Life.

Dr Martill, who named the fossil, said: "This discovery is unique because pterosaur remains are so rare in the late Jurassic period in the UK and the skull is extraordinarily slender.

"It is also remarkable to find such a complete skull, allowing us to identify the species more easily.

"We believe this discovery is significant because it seems to be filling a gap between primitive, small, long-tailed pterosaurs evolving into more advanced short-tailed forms."

Pterosaurs are flying reptiles which lived at the same time as dinosaurs, between 210 million and 65 million years ago.

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