Thecodontosaurus, Bristol's own dinosaur, to go on display at university

It roamed a tropical island habitat
210 million years ago, racing around
in herds and pausing from time to
time to stand on hind legs to nibble
with razor-sharp teeth on the leaves
of palm-like cycad trees. Introducing
Theco, the Bristol dinosaur.
As the unveiling of a life-sized
statue on Friday confirmed, Theco –
full name Thecodontosaurus antiquus
– is not the most spectacular of
dinosaurs, measuring no bigger than
a labrador dog.
But nevertheless Theco is a
fascinating creature because of both
its place in the history of
palaeontology and what it reveals
about the south-west of England in
prehistoric times.
Fossilised remains of Theco were
first discovered in 1834 in a quarry
on Durdham Downs in Clifton,
Bristol, making it only the fourth
dinosaur (even the word "dinosaur"
did not exist then) to be identified
anywhere in the world.
Since then many more bones
have been found in Bristol, south
Gloucestershire and south Wales.
But for years scientists laboured
under the misapprehension that Theco
was a meat-eater who lived in desert-
type conditions. As more and more
Theco traces were found and studied,
experts have come to realise that the
creature was a herbivore with
powerful back legs that allowed it to
reach up into low-hanging tree
branches. Theco had small sharp
teeth, each with tiny sharp bumps
running along one side, able to tear
through thick, juicy leaves.
The scientists also realised its
habitat was a group of tropical
islands, now known as the Mendip
Archipelago, which was situated
somewhere around what is now
north Africa.
Over the last four years the
Lottery-funded Bristol Dinosaur
Project has been helping to gather
and preserve thousands of Theco
bones, to teach local schoolchildren
and residents about the dinosaur and
now to produce the model, which will
go on show at Bristol university's
Wills Memorial building.