STL Science Center

STL Science Center

21 December 2012

Laelaps or Megalosaurus, Perhaps Dryptosaurus!

©Charles R. Knight
In 1866 New Jersey was about to have its first dinosaur mounted, in about two years, as the first skeleton to be mounted in the world (in Philadelphia, but still). The world had no idea what other amazing things were about to come out of New Jersey. Westward expansion had not yet shown Americans and the land they were occupying to be of much consequence in the world of paleontology as the East Coast had turned up little evidence of the age of dinosaurs to this point in time. New Jersey's Haddonfield find had set more eyes to being careful when they dug in the ground, however, and a mere 8 years later such careful eyes in a quarry would halt work before destroying what would later be identified as the world's first tyrannosaur. A primitive tyrannosaur, still in possession of a fairly useful arm with a three fingered hand and some nasty claws, Dryptosaurus aquilunguis (literally: to tear lizard eagle-clawed), was the fourth North American dinosaur described and lived in relative obscurity as far as the popular world is concerned for a long time. Initially given the generic name Laelaps (meaning storm wind and the name of a dog that never failed at hunting in Greek mythology) by E.D. Cope in 1866, the name change came about in 1877 courtesy of O.C. Marsh due to the preoccupied status of Laelaps by a mite!, Dryptosaurus actually suffers from a quite poor fossil record. The reason that people have heard the names Laelaps and Dryptosaurus is the painting above by Charles Knight. It's a classic given that it was painted during a time when most researchers were convinced dinosaurs were slow and given to soaking in the sun to get the energy to even lifting their heads. Knight's work is pretty fantastic.

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