Steve's Herpetological Blog

An insight into the life of Steve, his research and the many books he reads


#SciFri: Dinosaur rEvolution

I recently visited the Horniman Museum and Gardens in South London with some of my friends and colleagues from the TetZooCon world. I remember going to the Horniman Museum as a child, but don’t think I have been back in approximately 20 years – so it has been a while! Thankfully though, not much has changed. I shall be reviewing the Museum itself in a more comprehensive manner in an upcoming blog post, but for now, I want to focus on the main reason for our journey. Dinosaurs. Yep, just like before when we visited the titanosaur at the Natural History Museum, a number of us assembled from the far reaches of Wales, the North and Essex in order to meet up and attend this exhibition together. There was a very good reason for this, the celebrated palaeoartist Luis V. Rey helped to put most of the materials together for Dinosaur rEvolution.

The whole idea of Dinosaur rEvolution is to challenge the paradigm that dinosaurs were dull, instead of being a uniform green or brown as was previously thought, we now know that many species were extremely colourful. Gone are the days when we see dinosaurs are just big lizards (which also influenced the earlier colour schemes), now they are known to be much more flamboyant. Which is where Luis V. Rey comes in. If you’re familiar with any of his work, you will know he does not shy away from using colour. Some of you may have the book A Field Guide to Dinosaurs: The Essential Handbook for Travelers in the Mesozoic from 2012 sitting on your bookcase, then you’ll know exactly what I mean! Those of us descending on the Horniman Museum on the 10th February were there for the opening day of Luis’ vision, the first showing of Dinosaur rEvolution in the United Kingdom.

One of the highlights of the exhibition were five large animatronic models, which are displayed the the gallery below. There were all a massive hit with the children that were also visiting the exhibition at the time with their parents. Again, they have the characteristic flair of of colour, something which we know most species of dinosaurs would have had to help communicate with the opposite sex, indicate their age, and use as threat displays. Think of all the reasons birds have feathers, and it is very likely that dinosaurs used vibrancy in exactly the same way. I was also impressed by the representation of some lesser known species, helping to bring these dinosaurs to the forefront for the new generations of palaeontologists that this exhibit hopefully inspires.

As highlighted above (and below), there were also a numerous amount of stunning dinosaur casts which allow visitors to get up close and personal with these amazing animals. The combination of the animatronics, bright reconstructions, and the replica bones provide the perfect opportunity for all sorts of questions to fire off within the brains of those visiting. One of the questions that came to my mind was where were all the baby dinosaurs? We’ve found fossils of a large number of adults of a range of species, but very rarely do we find juveniles. In the case of Stygimoloch spinifer, we may have incorrectly attributed them to a new species when really they are an immature phase of Pachycephalosaurus wyomingensis. This isn’t the case for every dinosaur, as smaller more fragile bones rarely fossilise so there is a bias in the fossil record to the larger and more robust species or individuals. On top of this, they’re also not as charismatic as their larger cousins which brings another bias into play. Next time you’re at a museum, count all of the species you can see that are the size of a Labrador retriever or smaller, I bet it is a small fraction of the total number on display.

Thankfully, although I took many more photos, I won’t share them here. I want there to be a few surprises for when you go to visit Dinosaur rEvolution yourself. It is around until the beginning of November and entry is extremely well priced. The rest of the Horniman Museum is free to access (for the most part), and is a great day out for people of all ages interested in the natural world. If you do visit, please let me know what your favourite part of the exhibit was an why. Hopefully, you’ll enjoy it as much as me and my group of things did, which I sincerely hope is the case. Luis, you’ve done an amazing job and you should be proud of yourself!

A quick shout out to James Pascoe for helping to arrange the day out, and for liaising with Luis V. Rey to ensure that everything would still be going ahead despite some logistical nightmares. Finally, thank you to the group of amazing palaeontologists and enthusiasts for making the day so memorable, and for remembering the names of all the species listed above.

If you liked this post and enjoy reading this blog, please consider supporting me on Patreon where you will also gain access to exclusive content.



Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *