Dinosaurs facts and fiction

The First Model The Iguanodon

Dinosaurs were 'borne' officially in 1842 as a result of some truly brilliant and intuitive detective work by the British anatomist Richard Owen (Figure 1), whose work had concentrated upon the unique nature of some extinct British fossil reptiles. At the time of Owen's review, he was working on a surprisingly meagre collection of fossil bones and teeth that had been discovered up to that time and were scattered around the British Isles. Although the birth of dinosaurs was relatively...

Dinosaur research observation and deduction

In this chapter, a variety of lines of investigation are explored to reinforce the message that a multiplicity of approaches must be used if we are to comprehend the lives of fossil animals. Some aspects of dinosaur research have an almost sleuth-like quality to them, perhaps none more so than ichnology - the study of footprints. There is no branch of detective science which is so important and so much neglected as the art of tracing footsteps. (Conan Doyle, The Study in Scarlet, 1891) The...

Size and sex

The Bernissart discoveries are notable for comprising two types of Iguanodon. One (Iguanodon bernissartensis - quite literally 'the Iguanodon that lived in Bernissart') is large and robustly built, and represented by more than 35 skeletons the other (Iguanodon atherfieldensis, formerly called I. mantelli - literally 'Mantell's Iguanodon') is smaller and more delicately built (approximately 6 metres in length) and represented by only two skeletons. These specimens were regarded as distinct...

Dinosaur sophistication and brain size

Although the line of argument that follows is not universal to dinosaurs, it is instructive in the sense that it shows what some dinosaurs were capable of doing. The classic example is John Ostrom's dromaeosaur Deinonychus (Figure 29). As was summarized in Chapter 2, this dinosaur was a large-eyed visual predator that could clearly run fast, judging by its limb proportions and general build. In addition, it had an unusual stiff, narrow tail, extraordinary gaff-like inner toes on its hind feet,...

List of illustrations

1 Professor Richard Owen 2 2 Crystal Palace dinosaurs, drawing and photo 4 3 Comparison of Griffin and Protoceratops 6 From Adrienne Mayor, The First Fossil Hunters (Princeton University Press, 2000). Drawings by Ed Heck From David Norman, Dinosaur (Boxtree, 1991) The Natural History Museum, London The Natural History Museum, London 8 'Mantel-piece' skeleton 25 9 Mantell's sketch reconstructing Iguanodon 26 The Natural History Museum, London 10 Owen's reconstruction of Megalosaurus 27 The...

Ornithischian dinosaurs

Ornithischian

All ornithischians are thought to have been herbivorous and, rather like modern-day mammals, they seem to be far more diverse, and numerous, than their potential predators. Thyreophorans Figure 28 are a major group of ornithischians that 30. Triassic saurischian dinosaurs. The early theropod Coelophysis, and sauropodomorph Plateosaurus. are characterized by bearing bony plates in their body wall, clubs or spikes adorning their tails, and for having an almost exclusively quadrupedal method of...

Dinosaurs and warm blood

A number of areas of research on dinosaurs have attracted attention far beyond the realm of those who take a purely academic interest in these creatures. This common interest appears to arise because dinosaurs capture the public imagination in a way that few other subjects do. The following chapters focus on these topics in order to illustrate the extraordinary variety of approaches and types of information that are used in our attempts to unravel the mystery of dinosaurs and their biology.

Ostrom and Archaeopteryx the earliest bird

Having described Deinonychus, Ostrom continued to investigate the biological properties of dinosaurs. In the early 1970s a trifling discovery in a museum in Germany was to bring him right back to the centre of some heated discussions. While examining collections of flying reptiles, Ostrom noticed one specimen, collected from a n quarry in Bavaria, that did not belong to a pterosaur, or flying reptile, as its label suggested. It was a section of a leg including the j thigh, knee-joint, and shin....

Deducing the biology and natural history of Deinonychus

Looking at Deinonychus using this type of 'forensic' perspective, what do these features tell us about the animal and its way of life The jaws and teeth sharp, with curved and serrated edges confirm that this was a predator capable of slicing up and swallowing its prey. The eyes were large, pointed forward, and would have offered a degree of stereoscopic vision, which would be ideal for judging distance accurately very useful for catching fast-moving prey, as well as for monitoring athletic...

How Iguanodon chewed its food

Apart from the horny beak that was able to nip off plants at the front end of the mouth, the sides of the jaws are lined with a formidable, nearly parallel array of chisel-like teeth that form irregularly edged blades Figure 26 . Each working tooth slots neatly against its neighbours in a rank-and-file arrangement, and beneath the working teeth are replacement crowns that will slot into place as the working teeth are worn away, forming what is in effect a 'magazine', or battery, of teeth. This...

The invention of dinosaurs

Fourteen years younger than Mantell, Richard Owen also studied medicine, but concentrated in particular on anatomy. He gained a reputation as a skilled anatomist, and acquired a position at the Royal College of Surgeons in London, which gave him access to a great deal of comparative material and, through considerable industry and skill, allowed him to foster a reputation as the 'English Cuvier'. During the late 1830s, he was able to persuade the British Association to grant him money to prepare...

The discovery of terrible claw

Skeletal Diagrams Archeopteryx

In the summer of 1964 John Ostrom was prospecting for fossils in Cretaceous rocks near Bridger, Montana, and collected the fragmentary remains of a new and unusual predatory dinosaur. Further collecting yielded more complete remains, and by 1969 Ostrom was able to describe the new dinosaur in sufficient detail and to christen it Deinonychus 'terrible claw' in recognition of a wickedly hooked, gaff-like claw on its hind foot. Deinonychus Figure 16 was a medium-sized 2-3 metres in length ,...

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Iguanodon Tracks

However, given how specialized creatures such as dinosaurs can be, when compared to living crocodiles and birds, this approach must be design shape and arrangement of the bones of the skeleton or skull, and the influence that these would have on the distribution and functioning of the muscles. Such reconstructions also need to account for such factors as the proposed method of locomotion. For example, the details of the joints between the limb bones, a...

Bernissart a ravine where Iguanodon perished

Bernissart Iguanodon

Some of the earliest work at Bernissart focused on the extraordinary circumstances of the original discovery. The dinosaurs had been unearthed in a coal mine at depths of between 356 and 322 metres below the surface Figure 18 . This was unexpected, as the coal seams being excavated were known to be Palaeozoic in age and dinosaurs are of course unknown in rocks of such antiquity. However, the Iguanodon skeletons were not found in the coal seams themselves, but in a pocket of shale of Cretaceous...

Why dinosaur fossils are rare

It is important, at the outset, for the reader to realize that the fossil record is incomplete and, perhaps more worryingly, decidedly patchy. The incompleteness is a product of the process of fossilization. Dinosaurs were all land-living terrestrial animals, which poses particular problems. To appreciate this, it is necessary first to consider the case of a shelled creature living in the sea, such as an oyster. In the shallow seas where oysters live today, their fossilization potential is...

The traditional view of dinosaurs

Throughout the earlier part of the 20th century, it was widely and perfectly reasonably assumed that dinosaurs were a group of extinct reptiles. Admittedly, some were dramatically large or rather outlandish-looking compared to modern reptiles, but they were crucially still reptiles. Richard Owen and Georges Cuvier before him had confirmed that dinosaurs were anatomically most similar to living reptiles, creatures such as lizards and crocodiles. On this basis it was inferred, logically, that...

Ornithopod evolution

The earliest work in this field of research, carried out in 1984, concerned a group of dinosaurs that are quite closely related to the familiar Iguanodon. Generally, these types of dinosaur are known as ornithopods bird feet' - this comes from a passing, trivial resemblance in the structure of the feet of these dinosaurs to those of modern birds . Comparing in some detail the anatomy of a number of the then known ornithopods, a cladogram was constructed. To convert this into a genuine phylogeny...

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Predentary

Up plant tissues between the teeth to release the nutritionally usable 'cell sap' that is enclosed within plant cell walls. Herbivores eat large quantities of plant food in order to be able to extract sufficient nutrients from such comparatively nutrient-poor material. As a result, herbivores tend to have barrel-shaped bodies that accommodate large and complicated guts, which are necessary to store the large volumes of plants that they have to eat and allow sufficient time for digestion to take...

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Iguanadon Jaw

The whole mammalian type ofjaw mechanism is dependent upon very complex jaw muscles, a complex nervous control system, and a specially constructed set of skull bones to withstand the stresses associated with this chewing method. By contrast, more conventional reptiles. of which Iguanodon was one, do not have an anisognathic jaw arrangement, lack the complex muscular arrangements that allow the lower jaw to be very precisely positioned whether they had the nervous system to control such...

Reconstructing iguanodon

In 1878 remarkable discoveries were made at a coal mine in the small village of Bernissart in Belgium. The colliers, who were mining a coal seam over 300 metres beneath the surface, suddenly struck a seam of shale soft, laminated clay and began to find what appeared to be large pieces of fossil wood these were eagerly collected because they seemed to be filled with gold On closer inspection, the wood turned out to be fossil bone, and the gold 'fool's gold' iron pyrites . A few fossil teeth were...

Dinosaur discovery Iguanodon

Bone Tibia From Iguanodon

Once you have found your fossil, it needs to be studied scientifically in order to reveal its identity, its relationship to other known organisms, as well as more detailed aspects of its appearance, biology, and ecology. To illustrate a few of the trials and tribulations inherent in any such programme of palaeontological investigation, we will examine a rather familiar and well-studied dinosaur Iguanodon. This dinosaur has been chosen because it has an interesting and appropriate story to tell,...