Tributes are being paid to an Isle of Wight man and renowned fossil hunter, following his death at the age of 51.

Gavin Leng, a long time resident of Ryde who was best known for his discovery of a theropod dinosaur, died recently.

The Eotyrannus lengi — or Mr Leng’s dawn tyrant, as it is also known — was named after Gavin in 2001. He made the discovery of fossils in the cliffs near Brighstone when he was just a teenager.

Gavin collected fossils on the Island from the late 1980s to 2000s, often accompanied by his father.

Martin Simpson, the Island’s ‘fossil man’, said: “I consider Gavin to have been the best collector of Wealden vertebrate fossils in modern times.

"In fact, he is only rivalled by the famous William Fox, Victorian curate of Brighstone, in terms of the variety and significance of his discoveries."

Alongside Mr Simpson and another collector, Gavin was a co-discoverer of the Island’s first velociraptorine teeth.

Isle of Wight County Press: Gavin Leng pictured in the County Press in 1989, with one of his finds.Gavin Leng pictured in the County Press in 1989, with one of his finds. (Image: Isle of Wight County Press)

Gavin did not just collect dinosaurs, though.

In the 1990s he discovered some dinosaur-age amber on the back of the Wight and was the first to find some insect inclusions, dating back 125 million years.

In 2008, a new species of midge (a small fly) was named Dungeyella gavini in his honour.

Dr Darren Naish, a dinosaur expert who worked with Gavin, said: "He must be ranked as among the most significant of 20th/early 21st century finders of Wealden fossils, dinosaurs in particular.

"Eotyrannus remains one of the UK's most significant dinosaur finds, meaning that Gavin's place in palaeontological history is secured: very few people have a new species of tyrannosauroid named after them!"

Other finds of Gavin's included crocodiles, fossil wood and turtles, and the pterosaur Caulkicephalus, which he co-found in Yaverland.

Mr Simpson said Gavin knew the dinosaur beds of Yaverland, Brighstone and Brook inside out and the academics who wrote up his fossils owe a great deal to his legacy, which has increased the number of known Isle of Wight fossil species.

He also collected flint tools and was a successful detectorist.

Mr Simpson added: "As a person, Gavin had a laid back character and good sense of humour, and was well liked by fellow collectors; he will be greatly missed."

Gavin is survived by his mother Diane and sister Donna.