Discovering dinosaurs

Everything we know about dinosaurs is based on their fossilized remains. These are pieced together to make the skeletons we see in museums. Sir Richard Owen, the famous dinosaur expert, first named some reptile fossils as dinosaurs in 1841.

Sir Richard Owen (1804-92)

Sir Richard Owen (1804-92)

Fossils

Fossils are the remains of ancient living things buried and preserved in rocks. Most fossils were formed from tough body parts, such as the bones of animals or the woody parts of plants. Fossilization is a very slow process - it usually takes millions of years.

Tough tooth Worn surfaces on fossilized teeth show how different dinosaurs ate in different ways.

Sauropod tooth

Sauropod eggshell fragment

Tough tooth Worn surfaces on fossilized teeth show how different dinosaurs ate in different ways.

Fossil eggshell Dinosaur eggshells, such as this fragment from a sauropod egg, were hard enough to be preserved as fossils.

Iguanodon calf bone

Sauropod tooth

Fossilized cones

Sauropod eggshell fragment

Iguanodon calf bone

Old cones These pine cones from the cretaceous period were tough enough to fossilize.

Fossil bones Sometimes when bones fossilize, slow chemical processes capture every detail of their original inner structure and outer shape. Even when bones are cracked and crushed, it is possible to identify scars where muscles were attached.

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