Dinosaurs Celebrate Their 190th Birthday
Today, marks the 190th anniversary of the meeting of the Geological Society in London when the first formal presentation regarding the fossilised bones of an animal that was later to be described as a dinosaur was made. On the evening of February 24th, the Society’s President the Reverend William Buckland rose to address the assembled audience and described the fossilised remains of what had been termed the “Stonesfield Reptile”. This was William Buckland’s first meeting as president and one that would contain not only his description of a dinosaur (now known as Megalosaurus), but Buckland’s friend the Reverend Conybeare also presented to the society the fossilised remains of a Plesiosaurus that had been collected and prepared by Mary Anning, after its discovery at Lyme Regis.
The arrangements to view the fossils brought to London for the Society’s delectation did not go as planned. For a start, Mary Anning had carefully encased the near complete Plesiosaurus specimen in plaster, this was contained in a crate measuring ten feet by six feet. It proved too large, for it to be manhandled up the stairs to the allotted meeting room. As Conybeare later wrote, “the gentlemen of the Society were obliged to satisfy their curiosity by peering at the creature in a dark passage by candlelight.”
The Plesiosaurus was named Plesiosaurus giganteus, the specimen resides in the collection of the Natural History Museum although it has been taxonomically re-assigned (P. dolichodeirus).
Then it was the turn of the President of the Society, William Buckland to address the members and invited guests. The fossils of the “Saurian” as it was called had been known about for several years. They had been safely stored at the Ashmolean Museum (Oxford), and no doubt, Buckland would have got around to publishing a paper on them, but he may have been rushed into delivering his presentation as at the end of 1823, the discoveries of Gideon Mantell were gaining a lot of attention and Buckland wanted to be the first to present on this strange group of ancient reptiles.
The Reverend William Buckland – Dinosaurs Get Discussed at the Geological Society of London
As professor of Geology at Oxford University, the Reverend had been working on the fossils for about ten years. Commencing his presentation, Buckland said:
“I am induced to lay before the Geological Society the representations of various portions of the skeleton of the fossil animal discovered at Stonesfield, in the hope that such persons as possess other parts of this extraordinary reptile may also transmit to the Society such further information as may lead to a more complete restoration of its osteology.”
Thus, in this way dinosaurs were introduced to the scientific world, although the term Dinosauria was not coined until the early 1840s. The name of this dinosaur Megalosaurus (M. bucklandii) was formerly assigned in 1824, although the name had originally been used by another scientist James Parkinson when describing the fossilised jaw, other bones and teeth.
So, it is happy birthday to the dinosaurs, as on this evening 190 years ago the world was introduced to its first “terrible lizard”. Happy birthday dinosaurs.
To commemorate this event Everything Dinosaur is giving one lucky person the chance to be the proud owner of the 1:40 scale Carcharodontosaurus dinosaur model, part of the Collecta Deluxe range of dinosaur models.
To have a chance to win this excellent thirty-two centimetre long model, the first off the production line, simply visit Everything Dinosaur’s Facebook page, leave a comment on the Carcharodontosaurus competition image and give our page a “like”.
On Friday March 14th we will put all the entrants names into a hat and pull out one lucky winner who will receive the world’s first 1:40 scale Carchardontosaurus dinosaur model to mark the birthday of the dinosaurs.
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Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur
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