Friday, 16 December 2011

What If A Young Boy Made An Important Contribution To Palaeontology? (or Matty's Sea Monster) by Damaris Wade

Damaris Wade says:

As Biology is my subject, I have always enjoyed palaeontology, have taken evening classes to increase my knowledge and designed courses for Years 7-8 whilst I was in teaching. I was therefore delighted when my grandson, Matthew, started to take a real interest, more than the usual “dinosaurs as monsters” approach. There is so much superficial and inaccurate literature around, that I wanted him to have a story which was both scientifically accurate and had himself as the hero. I have aimed the story at 4 – 7 year-olds and was pleased to have had a favourable reception from Matty himself.

What If A Young Boy Made An Important Contribution To Palaeontology? (or Matty's Sea Monster) by Damaris Wade

Matty is six years old and lives with his Mum and Dad and his brother who is called Little Dave. Little Dave is not very interesting because he does not know how to walk and talk, but when he is older he will be able to play football in the garden at the back of their house. Matty likes playing football, but what he likes best of all is finding out about creatures which are now extinct. He has books with pictures of what they looked like and where they were found. His favourite extinct animals are the plesiosaurs. They were reptiles, similar to lizards, which lived in the sea about 80 million years ago. They had long necks, short bodies and flippers for swimming, and chasing after the fish they ate.

Every year, Matty and his family spend a week at a cottage in Devon. This is an exciting place for hunters, as the rocks are full of fossils. What if Matty could find a really special one this year? As usual, he wanted to search for fossils near the cliffs above the beach. Mum warned him, “Don’t wander too far and keep away from loose rocks.” Matty promised to be careful and set off to see what he could find.

Matty is big and strong for his age so he was able to turn over some quite large stones but there was nothing except some smaller stones underneath. He was just about to go back to Mum and Dad when he spotted something which looked too smooth to be a rock. Matty remembered the pictures he had seen in his books, so he knew at once what it was – three large spine bones and a short limb bone. “What a find! I am the greatest fossil-hunter ever!” He cheered and ran over to tell Dad.

Dad was not sure about the bones Matty had found, but they seemed to come from a large animal and he took several photos of them on his mobile phone. “There are some fossil experts investigating further along the cliff, perhaps they can tell you what you have found. But don’t be too disappointed if the bones are not very interesting,” Dad warned as he and Matty walked along the cliff path.

The professor in charge of the team was very excited by Matty’s discovery and went to look at the fossil immediately. He said he would take the bones to London so that other fossil experts could examine them.

After a few weeks, Matty had a letter from the professor; the bones were, as Matty had thought, from a plesiosaur, but one new to science. They had gone back to the place where Matty had found the bones and dug up more of the skeleton, showing that the plesiosaur was larger and had bigger teeth than any found before. Because Matty was the first to find the bones, the naming committee had decided to call the new plesiosaur Matteosaurus. “That means ‘Matty’s lizard’, he told Little Dave, but Little Dave was chewing a crust and was not at all interested.

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