Megalosaurus was a nine-metre-long Jurassic carnivore. Its fossilised remains was first discovered in the late 18th century in the small village of Stonesfield, about 15km north of the Museum.
Over the next two decades, several more enormous bones were found at Stonesfield. In 1818, the University of Oxford’s first Reader in Geology, William Buckland, showed the collection to the renowned French comparative anatomist Georges Cuvier. The two scientists realised that the bones belonged to a giant lizard-like animal. Buckland went on to describe the bones in 1824, naming it 'Megalosaurus', meaning 'great lizard'. The specimens in the Museum’s collection include most of the material he used in this groundbreaking work.
A sequence of Megalosaurus footprints can be seen on the lawn in front of the Museum. The 60-metre-long trackway is made up of casts of fossilised prints discovered at Ardley Quarry, Oxfordshire in 1997.
Megalosaurus is not the only dinosaur to have been discovered in Oxfordshire. Other dinosaurs found in Oxfordshire include Cumnoria, Eustreptospondylus and Cetiosaurus. All these dinosaurs date from Middle-Late Jurassic (around 170–150 million years ago), when the area which is now Oxfordshire had a much warmer climate. As well as dinosaurs, the land was home to pterosaurs and small mammals.