On Feb 20, 1824, English naturalist and theologian William Buckland addressed the Geological Society of London, describing an infinite jaw and limb bones unearthed in a slate quarry within the village of Stonesfield close to Oxford.
Buckland recognised that these fossils belonged to an enormous bygone reptile, and gave it a proper scientific title: Megalosaurus, which means “nice lizard”. With that, the primary dinosaur was formally recognised, although the precise phrase dinosaur wouldn’t be coined till the 1840s.
“It was the start of our fascination with dinosaurs,” College of Edinburgh palaeontologist Steve Brusatte mentioned. “His announcement opened the flood gates and began a fossil rush, and other people went out in search of different big bones in England and past.”
Within the intervening 200 years, dinosaur science has flourished, offering perception into what these creatures regarded like, how they lived, how they developed and what doomed them. Dinosaurs trod the planet from about 231 million years in the past to 66 million years in the past in the course of the Mesozoic Period. Their hen descendants stay with us right now.
“Our understanding of dinosaurs has modified considerably for the reason that nineteenth century,” mentioned palaeontologist Emma Nicholls of the Oxford College Museum of Pure Historical past, dwelling to the Megalosaurus fossils Buckland studied.
“Buckland and different gents naturalists of the early nineteenth century can be shocked at how a lot we now learn about dinosaurs,” Brusatte added.
Megalosaurus is a living proof. Buckland thought it was a lizard about 20m lengthy, walked on 4 legs and will dwell on land or within the water. Scientists now understand it was not quadrupedal and never a lizard, however belonged to the theropod group comprising meat-eating dinosaurs akin to Tyrannosaurus and Spinosaurus and was about 9m lengthy.
“It scampered round on its hind legs, chasing down its prey, utilizing its clawed arms and toothy jaws to subdue its victims,” Brusatte mentioned.
Buckland, like others on the time, didn’t grasp how way back dinosaurs lived, believing Earth to be just a few thousand years previous. Scientists now know Earth is about 4.5 billion years previous. Megalosaurus lived about 165 million years in the past.
“It took a number of a long time for geologists to grasp that the Earth was really previous, and that life has developed over huge stretches of time. Dinosaurs and the opposite fossils being found have been an enormous impetus on this bombshell change in folks’s understanding of their place on this planet,” Brusatte mentioned.