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a meat eating megalosaurid theropod dinosaur from the Middle Jurassic of England.
Pronunciation: MEG-a-lo-SOR-us
Meaning: Great lizard
Author/s: Buckland (1824)
Synonyms: None known
First Discovery: Oxford, England
Chart Position: 1

Megalosaurus bucklandi

Some 336 years ago, as of 2012, a large bone was unearthed in a limestone quarry near Oxford, England, and after much puzzling professor Robert Plot came to the conclusion that it was the partial femur of a Roman war elephant. Soon after, he changed his mind and thought it belonged to a giant human, like those in the bible, which was perfectly plausible at the time. However, it was the analysis of Richard Brookes almost a century later that brought this lump of bone its first scientific name — "Scrotum humanum" — because he thought it resembled a pair of human testicles (see etymology).

To be fair, Brookes had no idea what he was dealing with; it did look like the goolies of a male, albeit a rather well-endowed one, afterall. But in 1824 William Buckland, armed with more morsels from the same quarry and the knowledge of French paleontologist George Cuvier, deduced that this bone was the partial femur of a gigantic reptile-like critter that he named Megalosaurus — the great lizard — though Owen's "Dinosauria" was still 18 years away so it wasn't recognised as a dinosaur until then. Heck, three more years had passed before it received a full binomial — the two part name paleontologists insist upon these days if a critter is to be classed as scientifically valid.

Gideon Mantell honored Buckland when he added the epithet bucklandii in 1827 though Ferdinand von Ritgen chose "conybeari" a full year earlier which, for some reason, just never caught on. In a world dominated by upper-class scholarly gents, perhaps an obstetrician specialising in the care of women during pregnancy, childbirth and the postnatal period, was not deemed worthy of meddling in such matters? Truth be told, we can't understand German scientist's infatuation with England's shabby-chic national treasures when they have Lagerstätte full of beautifully preserved critters like Archaeopteryx anyway.

Along with Iguanodon and Hylaeosaurus, Megalosaurus became a lynchpin of Richard Owen's "Dinosauria" and much public exposure followed. A Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins-created statue showcased at Crystal Palace, London, in 1851 — built under the guidance of Owen who believed that Megalosaurus was a mammal-like amphibious quadruped with a hunchback — generated a public awareness that dinosaurs had existed (despite creationist claptrap to the contrary) though it was many more years before anyone realised not all dinosaurs were, well, mammal-like amphibious quadrupeds with hunchbacks.

Problem is, for all its infamy Megalosaurus was misunderstood, but being the only known theropod dinosaur for many decades it became a "catch all" taxon and what a lot of catching it had to do. Remains were thrown in its general direction from all places and times as new species were raised willy nilly, sometimes based on nothing more than a tooth or claw, and eventually it contained more species than any other non-avian dinosaur genus, most of which had no right to be there. But it's not all grim news.

Some of todays best known dinosaurs began their life after death as species of Megalosaurus, reclaimed as scientists went hammer and tongs to clear up the mess, and after the dust settled only one true species of Megalosaurus remained—Megalosaurus bucklandii — the old school original, now anchored on a lower jaw from Stonesfield Quarry, because its first remains — the femur end that looked like a nutsack, aka "the Cornwell bone" — is long lost. Thank god for small mercies.

Megalosaurus is still poorly represented fossil-wise but paleontologists have painted a rough picture of what it looked like based on comparisons of its known bones to those of more compelete theropods. It was about eight metres long and weighed close to a couple of tons. It walked on two stout hindlimbs with three forward-facing weight-bearing toes, its horizontal and heavily-muscled torso was balanced by a strong tail, and its forelimbs were short, though very robust, and carried three digits. Proportionately, its head was unusually large with a rather robust lower jaw, and it sported long curved teeth designed to rent prey asunder.
(Buckland's Great Lizard) Etymology
The name Megalosaurus is derived from the Greek "megas" (great, large) alluding to its great size, and the Greek "sauros" (lizard). It was initially considered to be somewhere in the region of 60 feet in length which is probably twice its actual size. The species epithet, bucklandii, (assigned by Gideon Mantell in 1827) honors William Buckland who coined Megalosaurus in 1824. Funnily enough, Ferdinand von Ritgen assigned the epithet "conybeari" in 1826 but no-one took a blind bit of notice.
As mentioned above, the first fossil that scientists suspect belonged to Megalosaurus is a lump of femur that Richard Brookes named "Scrotum humanum" in 1763, and thus became the first non-bird dinosaur to recieve a "proper" scientific binomen. This caused serious concern for modern paleontologists, so much so that William A.S. Sarjeant petitioned the ICZN to supress the name in the 1990s. But the petition was rejected by then-executive secretary P.K. Tubbs, not only because he considered the name nothing more than the label of an illustration and an historical curiosity but also because the bone is long lost and was too incomplete to assign to anything anyway.
Era: Mesozoic
Epoch: Middle Jurassic
Stage: Bathonian
Age range: 167-164 mya
Est. max. length: 9 meters
Est. max. hip height: 2.5 meters
Est. max. weight: 2 tons
Diet: Carnivore
Re-assigned Species
Megalosaurus superbus, "the proud one" (Sauvage, 1882) was renamed Erectopus superbus (Huene, 1923).
Megalosaurus bredai, "for Jacob Gijsbertus Samuël van Breda" (Seeley, 1883) was renamed Betasuchus bredai (Huene, 1932).
Megalosaurus dunkeri, "for Wilhelm Dunker" (Dames, 1884) was renamed Altispinax (Huene, 1923), then Streptospondylus dunkeri (Depéret & Savornin, 1928), and is now known as Altispinax dunkeri (Kuhn, 1939).
Megalosaurus oweni, "for Richard Owen" (Lydekker, 1889) was renamed Altispinax oweni (Huene, 1923) then Valdoraptor oweni (Olshevsky in 1991).
Megalosaurus crenatissimus, "very notched" (Depéret, 1896) was renamed Dryptosaurus crenatissimus (Depéret, 1928) then Majungasaurus crenatissimus (Lavocat, 1955) which is a senior synonym of Majungatholus atopus (Sues & Taquet 1979).
Megalosaurus bradleyi, "for F. Lewis Bradley" (Woodward, 1910) was renamed Proceratosaurus bradleyi (Huene, 1926).
Megalosaurus nicaeensis, "from Nice" (Ambayrac, 1913) was named on the strength of a large jaw from the Oxfordian of La Turbie (Alpes-Maritimes), Nice, that turned out to be a marine crocodile (Buffetaut, 1982).
Megalosaurus parkeri, "for William Kitchen Parker" (Huene, 1923) was renamed Altispinax parkeri (Huene, 1932), then Metriacanthosaurus parkeri (Walker, 1946).
Megalosaurus nethercombensis, "from Nethercombe" (Huene, 1923) was renamed Magnosaurus nethercombensis (Huene, 1932).
Megalosaurus saharicus, "of the Sahara " (Depéret & Savornin, 1925) was renamed Megalosaurus (Dryptosaurus) saharicus (Depéret & Savornin, 1927) and is now known as Carcharodontosaurus saharicus (Stromer in 1931), though Huene accidentally referred its remains, two lousy teeth, to Megalosaurus africanus in 1956 which is thus a junior synonym of Carcharodontosaurus.
Megalosaurus wetherilli, "for John Wetherill" (Welles, 1954) was renamed Dilophosaurus wetherilli (Welles, 1970).
Megalosaurus hesperis, "the western one" (Waldman, 1974) was renamed Duriavenator hesperis (Benson, 2008).
• W. Buckland (1824) "Notice on the Megalosaurus, or great fossil lizard of Stonesfield".
L.B. Halstead (1970) "Scrotum humanum Brookes 1763. The 1st named dinosaur".
• D. B. Weishampel and N. M. White (2003) "The Dinosaur Papers (1676-1906)". /uk.
• Benson R.B.J, Barrett P.M, Powell H.P, and Norman D.B. (2008) "The Taxonomic Status of Megalosaurus Bucklandii (dinosauria, Theropoda) from the Middle Jurassic of Oxfordshire, Uk".
• R.B.J. Benson (2010) "A description of Megalosaurus bucklandii from the Bathonian of the UK and the relationships of Middle Jurassic theropods".
• Farlow, Brett-Surman & Holtz "The Complete Dinosaur: Second Edition". /uk.
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To cite this page:
Atkinson, L. "MEGALOSAURUS :: from DinoChecker's dinosaur archive".
›. Web access: 26th Mar 2017.