Whether you live in and around or intend to visit the picturesque Devon regency seaside resort town of Sidmouth this Summer. You should consider visiting the Sidmouth Museum and discover its local fossils including a new VIP dating back to the Triassic Period over 200 million years ago.
With an affordable entrance fee of £2.50 per person and a wonderfully welcoming Team. The Sidmouth Museum is simply not an archive of local history but also a burgeoning treasure trove of fossil records including a very special addition for Summer 2022.
This Summer you will have a rare opportunity to visit Sidmouth Museum and see an internationally important fossil in a new exhibition called, “How Fossils are Redefining the Global Significance of Sidmouth’s Coastline”.
For the purposes of this blog I shall focus on what I regard to be the highlight of the exhibition. Feralisaurus corami is the only fossil specimen of its kind anywhere worldwide. Categorised as a "holotype" fossil because of its uniqueness in the fossil record it was found several years ago in the enigmatic red coloured Otter Sandstone near Sidmouth. You will need to visit the exhibition to see what it looks like - no spoilers.
Feralisaurus corami falls into a rare group of early diapsids or early reptiles dating back to the Middle Triassic some 247 - 237 million years ago and is displayed alongside the more well known Kapes bentoni and Bentonyx sidenis a Rhynchosaur fossil.
Feralisaurus corami is also important because it dates back to the early part of the Middle Triassic when animal species were only beginning to recover on land following the dramatic start to the Triassic Period.
The Triassic Period spans 51 million years and began with the Permian-Triassic Mass Extinction where up to 95% of all marine species and 70% of land species were wiped out. This extinction event is known as the "Great Dying".
During the end of the Permian Era (before the Triassic) plate tectonic activity picked up, and volcanic eruptions were globally happening across the supercontinent of Pangea.
This volcanic and tectonic activity released toxic ash clouds of sulphur dioxide and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This chemical change triggered extreme climate change where acid rain and increasing temperatures lead to global warming making the atmosphere, land and sea uninhabitable but only for the few.
During the Triassic Period the interior of Pangea was very hot and dry and may have recorded the hottest temperatures the Earth has ever experienced. At this time there were no ice caps on Earth and the coastal areas had a seasonal monsoon climate.
During the Triassic Period tectonic activity continued to split up the supercontinent of Pangea and influence the climate and environment gradually making it possible for life to re-emerge.
It was not until the Middle Triassic (247 - 237 million years ago) that sea levels rose and the waters of continental shelves were being colonised for the first time by insects, mammals, birds, and flowering plants on land, and fishes, corals, molluscs and large marine reptiles and reef-building corals.
These animals lived during a time when Pangea began to positively change the climate of Earth and ephemeral braided streams began to flow and the climate became more semi-arid and hospitable.
Feralisaurus corami as a unique Middle Triassic fossil reptile is more related to lizards and snakes rather dinosaurs, birds and crocodiles. The Feralisaurus corami was a small river predator and was most likely preyed upon by the much larger Temnopondyl a amphibious predator that could grow up to 4 meters in length.
In my opinion the Sidmouth Museum punches well above its weight. Ann Tanner (Museum Curator) and her Team are custodians to a must-see place where locals and visitors of any age can enjoy the Jurassic Coast's heritage. As they say, "Sidmouth Museum offers something for everyone".
Pictures by permission.