Published: 05:00, 16 October 2021
| Updated: 14:57, 28 October 2021
Curious onlookers who have closely examined the statue of a Mantellisaurus that has been recently installed outside of Maidstone East Station may have noticed something curious. The otherwise realistic statue has no genitalia.
The omission is not due to any excessive concern for the public's modesty on the part of its creators Gary and Thomas Thrussell, but rather because no-one knows what sex it should be.
The Mantellisaurus is a representation of the town's famous "Iggy" - the dinosaur fossil unearthed in a quarry off Queen's Road in 1834.
Then believed to be an Iguanodon, the dinosaur has since been reclassified as a sub-species, the Mantellisaurus, that roamed the earth 125 million years ago.
The sex of the dinosaur seemed rather important to borough councillor Tony Harwood - after all, Iggy does feature in the town's coat of arms.
Iggy's remains still exist and are housed in the Natural History Museum in London, so Cllr Harwood wrote to them for guidance.
The answer came back from Professor Paul Barrett, the museum's merit researcher of paleobiology, who said: "Sorry, it's notoriously difficult - effectively impossible - to sex a dinosaur from its skeleton, as all of the reproductive structures rot away before fossilisation and as male/female reptile skeletons don't differ in any measurable way."
He said: "Indeed, the only known female dinosaurs are currently those that still contain eggs in their abdominal cavities, of which there are only a couple of examples.
"Every other dinosaur skeleton is effectively 'sex unknown', including the Maidstone Mantellisaurus."