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The first discovery of a dinosaur will be 200 years old in 2024

The first discovery of a dinosaur will be 200 years old in 2024

In 2024, Megalosaurus will turn 200 years old since its discovery, and a milestone in this history is that it was the first dinosaur to get a name, even before the word “dinosaur” was invented, in 1842.

For a long time, between the 17th and 18th centuries, many fossils were discovered and people had no idea what dinosaurs were. In Oxfordshire, England, teeth and parts of a leg bone or jaw bone have sometimes been found. More mysterious bones were found in the early 19th century, but it was not until 1818 that anyone began to study these remains in detail.

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Megalosaurus, the first dinosaur

In 1824, William Buckland, a professor at Oxford University, published the results of the study in a research paper entitled “A Note on the Megalosaurus or Large Fossil Lizard at Stonesfield”. In it, Buckland and other scientists, such as zoologist Georges Cuvier, describe the megalosaurus as a large fossilized lizard, which when alive walked on four legs like an iguana. There is even a statue by Victorian sculptor Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins, from 1854, that shows him like this.

The Megalosaurus statue, sculpted by Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins, is located in Crystal Palace Park in England (Image source: Dreizung/Wikimedia Commons)

However, at that time, Buckland noticed that the animal was walking with its legs outstretched like a lizard. 200 years later, science has advanced and it is now known that Megalosaurus was actually a theropod, a suborder of dinosaurs that walked on two legs.

Characteristics of Megalosaurus:

  • A complete Megalosaurus fossil has never been found, but it is estimated to have been about 20 feet long;
  • It lived about 166 million years ago, in the Middle Jurassic, in what is now Europe;
  • It was a carnivorous dinosaur, and was relatively small for Jurassic theropods.
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Although more is known about Megalosaurus and countless other dinosaur species, there is still much to be discovered about these animals, even 200 years after the first were discovered.