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New ribs for University's hidden beast

Press release issued: 13 November 2001

New ribs for University's hidden beast

A 40,000-year-old extinct sabre-tooth cat skeleton exhibited in Bristol University's Department of Earth Sciences has recently acquired a replica set of ribs, thanks to a generous donation from the University's Alumni Foundation.

The specimen, which was presented to the department by the University of California in 1960, is made up of the bones of a number of individual animals excavated from Pleistocene tar-pits at Rancho La Brea near Los Angeles, California, USA.

The skeleton lacked its rib bones when it arrived in Bristol but it still made an impressive exhibit and provided an excellent example of a large extinct carnivorous mammal. It has not only been used in the teaching of vertebrate palaeontology at undergraduate and postgraduate level but has also been borrowed by other museums, photographed for books, and filmed by the BBC.

Mike Benton, Head of the Department of Earth Sciences and Professor of Vertebrate Palaeontology, said: 'Although the lack of a rib-cage did not greatly detract from the ferocious appearance of this extinct carnivore, or from its value for teaching palaeontology students, the department has always hoped that the skeleton would be restored to its former glory.'

Professor Mike Benton is one of the scientific experts behind the new BBC series 'Walking with Beasts' which starts on Thursday, November 15 at 8.30 pm.

The skeleton, complete with its new set of ribs, was filmed by the BBC for 'Triumph of the Beasts', the first of two programmes about the science behind 'Walking with Beasts', to be aired on Wednesday 21 November at 8 pm. The skeleton also features in the associated interactive programmes.

Mr Remmert Schouten, Palaeontological preparator in the Department of Earth Sciences, cast the set of replica ribs from a skeleton in a museum in the Netherlands and attached them to the Bristol specimen.

The skeleton of Smilodon, an extinct sabre-tooth cat, is on permanent display in the museum area of the Department of Earth Sciences, ground floor, Wills Memorial Building, Queen's Road.

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Copyright: 2001 The University of Bristol, UK
Updated: Tuesday, 13-Nov-2001 16:11:27 GMT

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