Author: Laura Dewis

What Did The Bristol Dinosaur Look Like?

Updated Tuesday, 24th August 2004
Palaeobiology - what the Bristol dinosaur might have looked like

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What did Thecodontosaurus look like in life?


Restoration is the job of palaeontoloists and palaeoartists, artists who deal with prehistoric subjects. More than four palaeoartists have restored Thecodontosaurus and all of the reconstructions look slightly different. Clues on the bones such as muscle scars indicate where the muscles were inserted onto the skeleton and how big they were. This helps us to determine the posture of the dinosaur - Thecodontosaurus spent most of the time on all four legs, although it was strong enough to run on its hind legs at times.

Body shape and colour

The teeth of 'Theco' suggest a diet predominantly of plants, so the stomach must have been large to digest all the plant matter. Finally, the skin must be restored. Unfortunately colour does not preserve in the fossil record so palaeoartists must make informed decisions based on the colour of living organisms. Large animals, such as elephants are typically dull because they have no need for camouflage - their size makes them immune to attacks. Smaller animals are often colourful. 'Theco' was probably quite camouflaged to hide from meat eating dinosaurs around at the time. It may have been shades of yellow, brown and green, to match the environment. Reptiles, the living relatives of 'Theco', make a useful comparison.

Is a 100% accurate restoration possible?

Other details such as the type of eyes must be estimated by looking at those of 'Theco's' closest living relatives, the reptiles. No restoration will ever be 100% accurate, although the more the animals are studied the more true to life the restorations may be. Slight variations in the estimate of stomach size, muscle size and skin colour by different palaeoartists, results in differences in the overall appearance of the Bristol Dinosaur.

Restorations of the Bristol dinosaur

The Bristol dinosaur


The Bristol dinosaur


The Bristol dinosaur

The Bristol dinosaur



The Bristol dinosaur



Next: Plesiosaurs




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