A Stegosaurus Tail Spike
This is a tail spike from a stegosaurus, so it’s a spike that would’ve sat at the end of a stegosaurus’s tail. There were four of them: the tail would be coming towards me, if you like, and the spikes would be sticking out like that.
There was some debate about the armour…how the armour was arranged, so this sort of thing: were there eight spikes at the end of the tail, were there two rows of plates, was there one row of plates. But actually there’s been some discoveries in the eighties which had completely preserved individuals so all the bones are in the right place and so we now know exactly how the plates were arranged and how the spikes were arranged at the end of the tail.
Yeah, OK, so, I guess when you see these beautiful dinosaurs in the exhibit halls in museums you think, ‘Wow, that’s how they’re found, there they are, lying out on the ground, this beautiful dinosaur’, but actually in the vast majority of cases we find…well, not even a bone like this, we probably find, like, this much of the bones and that’s all we know about the animal. What might happen is that this…a little bit might weather out of the cliff. Now, typically, the bone might be harder than the rocks around it so you might get like a little bit sticking out of a cliff or a rock like this and you go in and you dig around and you dig around and you dig around and you find and you expose a bone. And then you dig around it and you dig around it and you dig around it and there’s nothing else. So that would be your typical situation.
And the vast majority of dinosaurs are known from a few fragments of bone, nothing more. It’s very rare to find a complete preserved individual, or even a partially preserved individual, but they’re the really important ones to help us understand exactly what the animals looked like obviously, because we need to know how their bones were arranged.