Researchers study old bones with new tech

How Victorian scientists thought the megalosaurus looked (right), and how scientists today understand the creature's appearance (left).
How Victorian scientists thought the megalosaurus looked (right), and how scientists today understand the creature's appearance (left).
Art: Mark Garlick, University of Warwick .
Scientists are using state-of-the-art technology to understand the world’s first scientifically described dinosaur.

    Using a digital 3-D image created with scanning technology and specialized software, researchers have peered inside a megalosaurus jawbone held at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History.
    The scans have revealed “previously unseen teeth that were growing deep within the jaw before the animal died--including the remains of old, worn teeth and also tiny newly growing teeth,” according to a June 8 news release from the University of Warwick and the University of Oxford Museum of Natural History in England. The bone belonged to a creature that lived during the Jurassic period, around 167 million years ago.
    The scans also allowed researchers to understand the extent of repair on the skeleton done by a museum assistant between 1927 and 1931. That information will help the museum curators as they evaluate future restoration work.
     Scientists' grasp of dinosaurs has developed over centuries. Smithsonian magazine notes that the belief in mythical "dragons" may be linked to an early discovery of bones in China. But from the mid-17th century, scientists were seriously putting the pieces together. Here is the rundown:

1677, a giant: Published in 1677, Robert Plot’s Natural History of Oxfordshire included descriptions and illustrations of Oxfordshire fossils, rocks and minerals, according to the Oxford Museum of Natural History. “It also included the first known illustration of a dinosaur bone, thought by Plot to be the bone of a giant.”

1822, an iguana: Gideon Mantell, a medical doctor and natural historian, and his wife, MaryAnn Mantell, a fossil collector, discovered fragmentary remains of what they thought to be an extinct iguana.

1824, a great lizard: A jawbone was found in a slate quarry in Stonesfield, Oxfordshire, in 1824. It was acquired by William Buckland (1784-1856), a reader in geology at the University of Oxford.  This bone was used in the first scientific description of a dinosaur--the megalosaurus--in 1824, the museum recounts. Formally, it is called Megalosaurus bucklandii. Buckland showed the bone to another scientist, Georges Cuvier, a comparative anatomist, the museum recounts. Cuvier noticed similarities between the bone and modern lizards. The name chosen by Buckland--megalosaurus--means great lizard.

1842, dinosaur, a terrifying lizard: More bones were unearthed. But it wasn’t until 1842 that Richard Owen, a paleontologist, coined the term "dinosaur" to describe a group of animals including the megalosaurus. The roots of the word dinosaur (deinos and sauros) are Greek, according to Merriam-Webster online.  The first part means "terrifying," and the second part means "lizard."

    To know more:


      Newly identified dinosaur not a feathered friend

      Newly discovered dinosaur had thorny crown

      Newly identified dinosaur: A chicken from hell

      Fossil of early creature unearthed in Tanzania

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