Pliosaurus carpenteri: reconstruction for Bristol Museum

Technically, this isn't actually a dinosaur, but a Pliosaurus, which was a giant sea reptile that lived alongside the dinosaurs.

For this project, I started with a reconstruction of the animal's skull in 2015, made jointly for Cheltenham Science Festival & Bristol Museum and then, in 2017, made an interactive model of the entire beast, again life-sized (8.4m long). I initially sculpted a 1:16 scale maquette, which we then scanned, and milled from polystyrene at full size. We then installed the internal structure, animatronic eyes complete with a face tracking camera in it, and a sound system for her growls and heartbeat. She is now the centrepiece of Bristol Museum's interactive Pliosaurus display.

The fossil that she is based on, specimen BRSMG Cd6172, was found in a clay pit in Westbury, less than 20 miles from my house; it is a previously undescribed species, and was christened Pliosaurus carpenteri in honour of its discoverer.

Somewhere around 25% of the fossil was complete, and by extrapolating from similar creatures, and mirroring the bones, we could build up a really good picture of how it looked in life. One of the more unusual aspects of the skull is the large amount of pathologies that it shows. The main one of these is a broken jaw that had healed badly; the snout was somewhat offset as a result of this, meaning that the Pliosaurus had actually bitten into its own lower jaw and created extra sockets. Also as a result of this skewing, there was heavier than normal wear in the jaw articulation points, and a corresponding weakness in the jaw itself. This may have been what finally killed the poor beast, as it would have had a substantially weakened bite as a result of the jaw problems. There were also numerous scars and wounds, including a particularly nastily infected abscess in the bone of the palate, all of which the museum were keen for me to include. We even managed to get the smell of infection into her breath!