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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 that is required to cement a critter as scientifically valid.

Gideon Mantell honored Buckland when he added the epithet bucklandii to Megalosaurus in 1827, a full year after Ferdinand von Ritgen had chosen "conybeari", but the latter was never taken seriously. In a world dominated by upper-class scholarly gents, the opinion of an obstetrician specialising in the care of women during pregnancy, childbirth and the postnatal period, was not deemed worthy of meddling in such matters. And the fact that he never provided a sniff of a description of diognosis didn't help his cause. 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 today's best known dinosaurs began their life after death as species of Megalosaurus, and were reclaimed as scientists went hammer and tongs to clear up the mess. But after the dust had settled, only one true species of Megalosaurus remained — Megalosaurus bucklandii — the old school original, which is now anchored on a lower jaw from Stonesfield, because the femur end that looked like a nutsack, aka "the Cornwell bone", is long lost, and even bone fragments from the same quarry were found by different folk, in different digs at different times, and none can be assigned their with any certainty.

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 complete relatives. It was probably 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 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 terquemi, "for French mathematician Olry Terquem" (Gervais, 1859), is based on three isolated teeth from the Hettangian ‘Angula-tus Beds’ of Hettingen, near Moselle, Germany. Friedrich von Huene referred to them as "Megalosaurus" (gen. 2) terquemi in 1926 and Megalosauridorum gen. indet. terquemi in 1932, Albert de Lapparent renamed them Gresslyosaurus terquemi in 1967, then Buffetaut et al. brushed them off as belonging to a phytosaur of some sort in 1991. It's probably a blessing they were blown up when the Muséum du Caen was destroyed by incendiary bombs during the Second World War, as nothing good ever comes of tooth-based taxa. In their review of tetanurans in 2012, Carrano, Benson and Sampson listed Megalosaurus terquemi as Archosauria indet.
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).
• Plot R (1677) "The Natural History of Oxford-shire, Being an Essay Toward the Natural History of England".
• Brookes R (1763) "The Natural History of Waters, Earths, Stones, Fossils, and Minerals With their Virtues, Properties and Medicinal Uses: To which is added, The method in which LINNAEUS has treated these subjects".
• Buckland W (1824) "Notice on the Megalosaurus, or great fossil lizard of Stonesfield". Transactions of the Geological Society, 2(1): 390-396.
Halstead LB (1970) "Scrotum humanum Brookes 1763. The 1st named dinosaur".
• Huene F von (1926) "The carnivorous Saurischia in the Jura and Cretaceous formations, principally in Europe". Revista del Museo de La Plata, 29: 35–167.
• Huene F von (1932) "Die fossile Reptil-Ordnung Saurischia, ihre Entwicklung und Geschichte". Monographien zur Geologie und Palaeontologie, 4(1): 1-361.
• Lapparent AF de (1967) "Les dinosaures de France [The dinosaurs of France]". Sciences 51:4-19.
• Buffetaut E, Cuny G and Le Loeuff J (1991) "French dinosaurs: the best record in Europe?". Modern Geology, 16: 17–42.
• Sarjeant WAS (1997) "The earliest discoveries" in Farlow and Brett-Surman (EDS.) "The Complete Dinosaur".
• Weishampel DB and White NM (2003) "The Dinosaur Papers (1676-1906)".
• Day JJ and Barrett PM (2004) "Material Referred to Megalosaurus (Dinosauria: Theropoda) from the Middle Jurassic of Stonesfield, Oxfordshire, England: one taxon or two?". Proceedings of the Geologists' Association 115: 359–366.
• Benson RBJ, Barrett PM, Powell HP and Norman DB (2008) "The Taxonomic Status of Megalosaurus Bucklandii (dinosauria, Theropoda) from the Middle Jurassic of Oxfordshire, Uk". Palaeontology, 51(2): 419–424.
• Benson RBJ (2009) "A description of Megalosaurus bucklandii from the Bathonian of the UK and the relationships of Middle Jurassic theropods". Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, 158(4): 882–935.
• Farlow, Brett-Surman & Holtz "The Complete Dinosaur: Second Edition".
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To cite this page:
Atkinson, L. "MEGALOSAURUS :: from DinoChecker's dinosaur archive".
›. Web access: 16th Dec 2017.