December 18th

Box #18 in our count down is Scelidosaurus…

Days 1-5 of the count down.
Days 6-10 in the count down
Days 11-15 of the count down
Days 16-20 of the count down
Days 21-25 of the count down
Scelidosaurus, the first complete dinosaur fossil

Scelidosaurus: the “Limb Lizard”

Scelidosaurus lived in the early Jurassic Period, and is known to be among the first of many things. One of the earliest dinosaurs discovered. The first, and one of only two, dinosaurs known from Ireland. The first complete skeleton of a dinosaur. And one of the first true relatives to the large, armored Stegosaurus and Ankylosaurus.

Professor Richard Owen was given the hind limb bone of a dinosaur, and he was quite impressed by how strongly built it was for its size. He described it and wished to name it “hindlimb saurian”, but even the man who coined the name Dinosaur can get a little mixed up with Ancient Greek, and he used the Greek word skelis instead of skelos. Skelos means hindlimb, but skelos means “rib of beef”, so in reality he named Scelidosaurus “the lizard with a bone that looks like a rib of beef.” Perhaps he was working late and missed dinner, or perhaps it was just a typo. It happens to the best of us.

A few years later Owen described the complete skeleton of Scelidosaurus, a beautiful specimen discovered at the Charmouth Mudstone Formation in England, very near the place Mary Anning discovered her marine reptiles. In fact, many famous fossils such as Archaeopteryx in Germany and Hadrosaurus in North America. In 1854, the Crystal Palace revealed the sculptures of great beasts like Iguanodon and Megalosaurus in their lumbering, four-legged postures, along with ancient mammals like the Wooly Mammoth and the great deer Megaloceras.

It was the discovery of beautifully complete fossils like Scelidosaurus, and the sensational sculptures at the Crystal Palace, that truly inspired interest in discovering more about these ancient creatures.

Like so many other dinosaurs discovered at this time, the life appearance has changed a great deal as new discoveries are made and knowledge grows. It can be easy to laugh at the idea of a fish-eating, semi-aquatic Scelidosaurus, but one must understand that paleontologists at the time were discovering an entirely new world! Before then the bones of ancient creatures were “proof” of the monsters and dragons in traveler’s tall tales from distant lands, back when travel was difficult and the world was a dangerous and strange place full of wonders.

There is still some debate about whether or not Scelidosaurus preferred to walk on four or two legs. Perhaps when ambling from point A to point B in no particular hurry it would walk on four, and then easily rise up on two legs when feeding, when it wanted to get a better look around, for display, or for getting out of the area in a hurry.

6 thoughts on “December 18th

    1. What? How have you never? Why could you not just in its name years ago?

      I’m just joking, but if you’ve never heard of it before, now you have. Now I bet you have never heard of things like Brachytrachelopan, Adratiklit, Kootenichela, Trierarchuncus, Thescelosaurus, Melanorosaurus, Meraxes, Caiuajara, Suskityrannus, Archaeothyris, Padillasaurus, Thalattoarchon, Xenosmilus, Eobothus, Pederpes, and Purgatorius.

      But the fun in all that is to get to know things that you’ve just heard of/never did hear of.

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  1. First of all, Scelidosaurus is such an important find and I’m glad you covered it here. I put Spicomellus (the first African ankylosaur to be described) or a revisit to Mymoorapelta, but I feel guilty for not considering Scelidosaurus for my guess list. This is just one fascinating dinosaur, especially for its location and time, and I was a proper figure of it someday in the near future.
    I’m not going to bring up/discuss my version of your AC this day since I’m still waiting for you to reply to my comment from yesterday’s post. But I can say that I will focus on a metatherian mammal today.

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      1. Anyways, now that my December 17th entry is complete, I’m ready to share my December 18th section to you. The creature of focus will be Hondalagus, a South American marsupial that lived during the Miocene epoch. It was found in Bolivia, within an area known as Quebrada Honda, which gives the mammal its name. It is currently the smallest and most specialized member of the family that its much more well known member Argyrolagus was part of. Some new cranial material of Hondalagus has allowed for a re-diagnosis for it and an assessment with its relationships with other other members within its family. It would have resembled a springhare but would have had a longer snout, just like others of its group.

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