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Come face to face with Bristol’s biggest predator at the Bristol Museum & Art Gallery marquee

Bristol Festival of Nature pliosaur

From extinct marine reptiles with teeth the size of bananas to carnivorous slugs munching their way through your garden soil, Bristol Museum & Art Gallery is bringing Bristol’s predators to the Festival of Nature.

Bonnie Griffin, Curator of Natural History, told us about the fascinating exhibits that will be on show in the Museum’s tent in the Urban Jungle zone on June 11 and 12. With specimens spanning 200 years the museum has abundant resources to draw upon, but Bonnie said the future for the museum lies in observing and recording wildlife, working with the public and Bristol Regional Environmental Records Centre (BRERC) to collect data.

BRERC will also be at the tent with a map of the West of England for people to mark where they have seen wildlife. Biological records are key as knowing where wildlife lives helps to monitor and protect it.

Bonnie said: “The museum holds an almost complete fossil of a pliosaur: a huge, extinct, predatory marine reptile with teeth as big as bananas! We’re bringing along a reconstruction of a pliosaur skull found in Westbury to the festival for people to see.

“We should also have some ghost slugs, which were only discovered in 2008.  As it’s a very unusual little slug it’s very easy to identify.  It’s white and lives quite deep down in the soil – about 1 metre – and it eats earthworms. It has no eye spots on its tentacles, as it can feel its way through the soil, and it has a breathing hole near its tail. It also has thousands of teeth on its tongue!

We tend to think of predators as animals to fear but they are a crucial part of ecosystems.

Bonnie said: “If you have predators in your area it shows there’s food for them to live on – they’re an indicator of how healthy an ecosystem is.

“They may also actually help keep populations healthy. Herbivores may eat through all their resources if there are no predators in the area to keep the population down, so predators can help stop species becoming overpopulated and then crashing.”

Besides the model pliosaur skull and the ghost slugs, the Museum will be exhibiting birds of prey, spider and wasp specimens and other Bristol predators. You can find the Museum tent in the Urban Jungle zone in Millennium Square.