The Oxfordshire dinosaurs

Oxfordshire is home to the discovery of the first dinosaur to be scientifically described: Megalosaurus bucklandii. On display with Megalosaurus are three other species of dinosaur discovered in Oxfordshire, as well as exact replicas of dinosaur skeletons from around the world, including Tyrannosaurus rex.

On display in the centre court are the fossilised remains of the first dinosaur ever to be described by scientists – Megalosaurus bucklandii. The jawbone of Megalosaurus, a nine-metre-long Jurassic carnivore, was 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 display 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. The Museum’s displays include three other species found in the area: 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.

 

Video created by Paul Wilson (University of Warwick)
Supervised by Prof. Mark Williams, Prof. Paul Smith; Dr Alex Attridge
With thanks to: Dr Hilary Ketchum; Juliet Hay; Dr Jason Warnett; Prof. Roger Benson
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