STL Science Center

STL Science Center

04 September 2012

History Lives!

Rarely do I find description papers older than the 1970's online to share with the voracious readers of this page.Today I am exceedingly pleased to share not one, but two 19th century papers written about Megalosaurus. The fist paper to be shared today is a copy of the original paper by Reverend William Buckland addressed to the Geological Society and dated February 20th, 1824. In this paper Buckland asked for the society to hear his arguments and description of a new genus and species of prehistoric animal and to aid in disseminating the information to the public that they might learn about this newly discovered animal. He describes the lower jaw fragment and teeth held therein but then also goes on, which I did not mention previously, to describe ribs, partial pelvic elements, vertebrae, and appendicular elements that have been assembled from many individuals and a few localities. Some of these parts have been re-examined over the years, but in this instance they are all used to describe Megalosaurus, whether they have been reassigned since I do not personally know.

The second paper is from the famous Joseph Leidy and is dated 1868 in volume 20 of the Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia. Leidy writes in his paper a newer description of a fragmented jawbone different from the one described by Buckland, and adds his own commentary on the shape of the jaw, head, and overall animal. Leidy's jaw fragment was housed in the Academy's museum. He goes on to describe relationships other animals may prove to have relating to Megalosaurus, some of which we know for a fact are not correct now. Eventually Leidy trails off onto other dinosaurs including a hadrosaur, but not after describing the supposed Megalosaurus jaw fragment in detail.

The final papers are a new set of descriptions of another species of Megalosaurus. Today only Megalosaurus bucklandii is recognized as a species, but at one point in the not too distant past there were at least five species partially or at least trivially recognized until either further evidence or re-examination of the remains reassigned those other species one way or another. Michael Waldman's 1974 description is of an animal he called Megalosaurus hesperis was actually redescribed as recently as 2008 and, in holding with the norm of reassigning Megalosaurus remains, Roger Benson renamed Waldman's Megalosaurus as Duriavenator hesperis.

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