Dinosaurs of Britain – Part 1

Hello and welcome back to Fossils on Friday! I hope you all had a good Easter break.

 Well, today we begin a new topic! Dinosaurs! But in keeping with the ‘Britain’ part of this blog, we will only be looking at British dinosaurs – which is no small task! The study of dinosaurs was born here, ‘dinomania’ began here, and the British Isles are home to some of the most diverse range of dinosaur fossils on the planet! But, as every good story goes, let us start at the very beginning…….

 Dinosaurs were known about long before they were ever called dinosaurs – before they were known as Dragons. Stories of dragons are found all over the world, but are particularly famous in the UK, with many old buildings being ornately decorated with them – many of them looking exactly like how we now believe dinosaurs were. ‘Dragon’s bones’ – what we now know were dinosaur fossils – were dug up and collected, and stories of how they were slain became commonly told.

The drawing of the tooth discovered by Mary Mantell.

 The first ‘recognised’ dinosaur was discovered by Gideon Mantell, an English doctor. A tooth of a large reptile, which closely resembled that of an iguana was found by his wife, Mary, and was taken to Sir Richard Owen, the founder of the Natural History Museum in London.

The large creature ended up getting the name “Iguanadon” but was not the first dinosaur to be named. That went to Megalosaurus, a dinosaur similar to the T’Rex, but a bit smaller. A large jaw had been found near Oxford, and had the name officially prescribed to it, again by Richard Owen.

Artist’s depiction of Megalosaurs (Creative Commons)
See the source image
Sir Richard Owen (creative commons)

It was also Richard Owen who actually came up with the name ‘Dinosaur’, but even after he named them that, he continued to call them dragons! He also firmly believed that the dragons were the “Monsters God made!”

 So join me, as we continue to look at what dinosaurs our set of islands have to offer us – you may be surprised!