Mantell's discovery turned him into the world's first true dinosaur junkie. While there is no space to recount the details, his is the remarkable story of a man consumed by a passion for paleontology so great that he vanquished the skepticism of the greatest anatomist of his time (see Box 14.2), built a museum, and wrote the first description (and guided the first reconstruction) of a dinosaur - Iguanodon. It was a passion so all-consuming that it ultimately cost Mantell his livelihood and his marriage.
Dinosaurs in the Victorian Age
Perhaps it had to do with the Victorian penchant for collections and museums, perhaps it was just the novelty of the beasts being uncovered, but Victorian England was dino crazy. In 1824, the natural historian William Buckland (1784-1856) described a jaw fragment with a single recurved, serrated tooth as Megalosaurus. This was the first named dinosaur, now known to be a theropod, but at the time Buckland thought it was just a rather large lizard.
By 1842, enough of dinosaurs was known for the rising young English anatomist Richard Owen (Box 14.2) to invent a new term: Dinosauria (deino - terrible; sauros - lizard). The charter members of the group were Iguanodon (an ornithopod), Megalosaurus (a theropod), and Hylaeosaurus (an ankylosaur). Presciently, Owen's initial idea of Dinosauria was that its members were endotherms like mammals and birds, a conclusion based upon the
2. Stranger still, in 1763, Richard Brooke drew the specimen in a publication on the uses of various natural objects (including fossils) in medicine. It appeared to Brooke to preserve a giant's testicles; hence, his Latin description identified the fossil as "scrotum humanum." It has been suggested that, tongue firmly in cheek, the rule of priority in the Linnaean classification (see Box 4.2, p. 62) dictates that this first dinosaur bone should be referred to a genus Scrotum, species humanum. The fossil is now generally referred to the theropod Megalosaurus.
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