Box #18 in our count down is Scelidosaurus…
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.