Fossil helps unearth Hastings’ dinosaur secrets

Ray Tompsett from Bexhill with the fossilized Pterosaur bone he bought at a boot sale.
Ray Tompsett from Bexhill with the fossilized Pterosaur bone he bought at a boot sale.
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THE discovery of a rare fossilised bone by a collector could hold the key to prehistoric life in 1066 Country.

Ray Tompsett bought the pterosaur limb bone for less than £10 at a recent boot fair from the previous owner, who found it in Hastings.

The avid fossil collector, who is a member of Hastings and District Geological Society, and lives in Bexhill, said: “It’s quite rare to find one of these bones in this area. I was quite pleased to get it and showed it to other society members.”

Ken Brooks, the society’s chairman, said: “Pterosaurs, or flying reptiles, lived in the Hastings area during the Lower Cretaceous Period, around 140 million years ago.

“Some of them grew to a huge size, with a wingspan of up to five metres, so they were absolutely massive.

“It was once thought that they could not take off and fly because they were so large. But despite its size, a pterosaur might have weighed under 100kg because its bones were thin and hollow for maximum strength and minimum weight.

“The Hastings area and its surroundings were a huge flood plain 140 million years ago, with rivers and large lakes, covering the whole of present-day Sussex to central France. There was no English Channel back then.”

Mr Brooks said similar pterosaur bones have been found on the Isle of Wight because the rocks there are roughly of the same age as here in 1066 Country.

But he said such fossilised bones from the flying reptiles were less common to find in Hastings and its surroundings.

He added: “What is rare about Ray’s find is the size of the bone.”

Suspended on warm air thermals, a pterosaur could glide over 50 miles with a single flap of its wings. 

The vast wing size meant that it could take off from the ground by flapping, perhaps assisted by a light breeze.  

However, unlike the replaceable feathers of a bird, the stretched skin of a flying reptile’s wing could have been damaged by twigs and branches.

Pterosaurs hunted for food in coastal areas and lakes where they could swoop down and skim along the water to catch fish with sharp, pointed teeth. 

The beak was ideally shaped for this, with keel-shaped upper and lower jaws for stability while cutting through the water.

Pterosaurs became extinct 65 million years ago.

Hastings and District Geological Society meets once a month at Ore Community Centre in Old London Road.

For more information ring Mr Brooks on 01424 426459.