A bit of trivia: the United States sits atop the table for most dinosaur fossils ever found, with Canada in second. But where does the United Kingdom rank?
It may surprise you to learn that more dinosaurs fossils have been found across our green and pleasant land than in 190-odd other countries, as the UK enjoys seventh place in the Jurassic remnants league.
Top 10 | Where the world's dinosaur fossils have been found
Spanning the Mesozoic period, between 66 and 252 million years ago, 516 dinosaur fossils have been found in the UK, with evidence that Megalosaurus used to roam these shores the most common discovery, with nine finds. The latest find, rare, giant prehistoric footprints on the Isle of Skye, announced this week, brings the total to 517.
Geologists say the new finds are important as evidence from the Middle Jurassic period is rare, and few such fossil sites have been found around the world. The discovery adds to growing evidence that prehistoric reptiles were widespread on Skye at a pivotal time in their evolution.
To show how widespread dinosaur fossils have been in the UK, mapping and analytics company Esri UK plotted the location of each and every dinosaur fossil find here, from the south coast to the Scottish Highlands. Enthusiasts are able to search the map for their nearest find by typing a postcode into the box in the top right hand corner. Note that some of the discoveries were made off-shore, in the English Channel or North Sea.
Beyond this week's news, one of the most recent finds was the discovery of a near-complete dinosaur skeleton, thought to have lived about 132 million years ago, at a brick factory in Surrey last July. In February a fossil found in south Wales was confirmed as a new ancient species of small lizard that would have shared a home with dinosaurs 200 millions years ago. Another set of footprints were also found on Skye in 2015.
Where to find fossils in the UK?
Dorset is the county with the most fossil finds, and it celebrates by hosting much of the World Heritage-protected Jurassic Coast, as well as Lyme Regis Museum, home to an impressive fossil collection, and the Dinosaurland Fossil Museum. The town is also the site of the Fossil Festival each spring.
The counties with the most dinosaur fossil finds
- Isle of Wight
- East Sussex
- North Yorkshire
- Vale of Glamorgan
Yorkshire’s Fossil Coast is also a good bet for fossil hunters, with dinosaur footprints visible on beaches at Whitby and Robin Hood’s Bay, while the Isle of Wight, as seen in the map above, boasts more than its fair share of archaeological prizes. Dinosaur remains are so ubiquitous on the Isle of Wight that there’s even an app. Download it to follow in the footsteps of giants, or head to Compton Bay or Yaverland beaches to search for fossils. Or join a guided fossil walk with one of the Isle of Wight's dinosaur experts.
What about the rest of the world?
As mentioned before, the US is well out in front in terms of fossil finds, with 5,077 to Canada’s 1,444. The map below shows that, though spread across the country, the discoveries are particularly clustered along the spine of the Rocky Mountains.
In third place is Spain, where visitors can embark on the Dinosaur Route, a 1,945-mile journey taking in some of the country’s key archaeological sites, including Asturias’ Dinosaur Coast, where prehistoric footprints can be found from Gijon to Ribadesella.
Anyone with a desire to see the largest dinosaur footprints should head to the Kimberley shoreline in Western Australia, where 1.7-metre prints were found last year. At low tide the prints of some 21 different types of dinosaur can be seen along the coast.