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 […]

Dinosaurs in perspective Part 1

The fossilized remains of dinosaurs (with the notable exception of their lineal descendants the birds – see topic 6) have been found in rocks identified as belonging to the Mesozoic Era. Mesozoic rocks range in age from 245 to 65 million years ago (abbreviated to Ma from now on). In order to put the time […]

Dinosaurs in perspective Part 2

Dinosaur discovery: 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 […]

Dinosaurs in perspective Part 3

Dinosaur palaeontology in decline Paradoxically, the culmination of Dollo’s remarkable work on this dinosaur and his international recognition as the ‘father’ of the new palaeobiology in the 1920s marked the beginning of a serious decline in the perceived relevance of this area of research within the larger theatre of natural science. In the interval between […]

Dinosaur renaissance

The discovery of ‘terrible claw’ 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 […]

New light on Iguanodon Part 1 (Dinosaurs)

The resurgence in palaeobiology in the 1960s, and the new insights into dinosaurs prompted by John Ostrom’s important work, provided a spur to reinvestigate some of the earliest discoveries. Louis Dollo’s description of the incredible discoveries of Iguanodon at Bernissart created the image of a giant (5 metres tall, 11 metres long) kangaroo-like creature. It […]

New light on Iguanodon Part 2 (Dinosaurs)

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 […]

Unravelling the genealogy of dinosaurs

Up to this point, our focus has been largely, if not exclusively, tuned to exploring aspects of the anatomy, biology, and way of life of the dinosaur Iguanodon. It must be obvious that Iguanodon was just one dinosaur that fitted into far larger tableaux of life in the Mesozoic Era. One of the important tasks […]

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 topics focus on these topics in order […]

What if … birds are dinosaurs?

Following on from John Ostrom’s inspired work in the 1970s, the anatomical evidence for a relationship between dinosaurs and birds is now so detailed that it is possible to reconstruct the stages by which a dromaeosaurian theropod might be transformed into an early bird. Early small-sized theropods, such as Compsognathus, have a birdlike appearance – […]