STL Science Center

STL Science Center

05 September 2012

Interesting Things About Megalosaurus

We could spend all day on interesting points in the evolution of Megalosaurus from mistaken quadrupedal dragon like reptile to hulking Middle Jurassic theropod. The original name for a femur of Megalosaurus that was found was Scrotum humanum simply because the lower end of the femur, which was all that was found, look like human genitalia; I think some anatomists of the late 18th and early 19th century were sometimes, while being great minds, terrible perverts. Thankfully in the 1990's when a case was made to have this scientific name erased it was decided by the ICZN, the community that approves and disagrees with scientific naming, when the secretary of the committee decided that the name was a label for an illustration and not a binding scientific name. Imagine if it had stuck and taken precedence over Megalosaurus; that would be one dinosaur we could not discuss in public education ever.

The most unfortunate thing about Megalosaurus is that nearly 200 years later there have still been absolutely no complete skeletons of this dinosaur recovered from the European soils in which its fragments have been found. The fragmentation of the dinosaur has been a problem in the past, leading to the creation of many new species since named dubious or reassigned into other animal's genera. Melting pot that it once was, Megalosaurus is slowly being sorted out and has, generally, been cleaned of most dubious material by now. Until the day we have a complete skeleton, of course, having a complete picture of Megalosaurus is almost impossible and we may never, if we do not unearth a complete skeleton, even know what it actually looked like. Paleoartists do a good job filling in the gaps for now however.
©Alexander Lovegrove

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