Sunday, 28 March 2010

Triassic lizard finds new home in Fairlynch

How a rhynchosaur would have looked in real life
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A re-thatched roof and properly working central heating system will create just the right conditions for a new resident of Budleigh Salterton's Fairlynch Museum and Arts Centre.

We all know that lizards like basking in the warm sunshine, and Budleigh's links to the Triassic Period some 200 to 250 million years ago are well-known, so Fairlynch trustees felt that a model of a rhynchosaur would be an appropriate addition to the Museum's Environment Room.

In fact the new arrival should feel very much at home in Budleigh. A skeleton of one of the lizard-like creatures was found just a few miles away from us in the Sidmouth area some years ago.

Budleigh Salterton's Fairlynch Museum and Arts Centre with its newly thatched roof

David Hone, a vertebrate palaeontologist working in Beijing on dinosaur behaviour, made that particular specimen the subject of his doctoral thesis. He describes rhynchosaurs as happy little herbivorous reptiles, noting that they are also called chisel lizards because of their bizarre ‘tusks’ at the front of the jaws.

"These look rather like giant incisors and as a result give them a bit of a rabbit-like appearance, but these things aren’t teeth," he explains. "In fact they are just modified jaw bones - the premaxilla above and dentary below - that in life would have stuck out through the flesh of the animal to form these pseudo teeth. In fact you can see marks on the bones where the skin would have stopped and the bony protrusion started."

"There is a general consensus that rhyncosaurs were basically pig-a-likes grubbing around for roots and tubers which they dug up with the strong legs and big claws and then chomped through with their tusks and grinding teeth."

There is more information at

It is thought that rhynchosaurs died out suddenly at the end of the Carnian (Middle of the Late Triassic period), perhaps as a result of the extinction of the Dicrodium flora on which they may have fed.

A new genus of rhynchosaur from the Middle Triassic of South-West England by Dr Hone and Professor Michael Benton of Bristol University was published in Palaeontology, Volume 51, Number 1, January 2008, pp.95-115.

An example of bobbin lace
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Other new items on display at Fairlynch include a Nottingham machine lace designer's workbook and drawings, together with examples of handmade bobbin lace compared with machine made lace.

Picture: One of Joyce Dennys' illustrations from her book Henrietta's War

The museum is celebrated for its substantial costume collection.
The current theme of 'Children' is being touched on with exhibits from Fairlynch's collection of art work, including reproductions of work by Sir John Millais and book illustrations by former Budleigh residents Joyce Dennys and Cecil Elgee.

Fairlynch Trustees hope that a new Chairman will be appointed soon to succeed Sonia Stone, who has moved away from the Budleigh area.
The new season will begin on Easter Saturday, 3 April 2010, with doors opening from 2.00 - 4.30 pm. This is probably the only Saturday opening of the season. Usual opening hours will be Sunday through to Friday, 2.00 - 4.30 pm.

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