Dinosaur Renaissance Most young boys (and many young girls!) play with dinosaurs


Following in Owen’s wake, dinosaurs were reconstructed as giant sprawling lizards



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  • Following in Owen’s wake, dinosaurs were reconstructed as giant sprawling lizards

  • Museum reconstructions were often badly stressed and even deformed to fit this misconception


  • Diplodocus was so bent out of shape that its stomach ended up below the bottom of its legs…

  • It would have needed a backhoe to go in front of it and dig a trench for its stomach!!


  • It was not until twenty years after Owen’s first restorations that paleontologist’s would even admit that some dinosaurs could walk erect on their hind legs

  • Only a few paleontologists, like Edward Drinker Cope, held a more modern notion of dinosaur biology


  • The image of dinosaurs as giant dimwitted lizards remained entrenched in museum halls and in the mind of the public for several decades


  • The brilliant artist Charles Knight was one of the first to grasp the true nature of the dinosaur

  • His beautiful paintings still grace the exhibit halls in the American Museum of Natural History




  • The old image of dinosaurs as dim-witted cold-blooded brutes held sway until the late 1960’s

  • Work of John Ostrom and his protégé Robert Bakker started a dinosaur renaissance


  • In 1969, Ostrom unveiled a fierce predator he named Deinonychus, eight feet of fighting fury, with lethal five inch claws to slash its prey


  • Old ideas of dinosaurs were shattered forever, by a paper presented in 1969 at a paleontological convention by John Ostrom

  • Ostrom pointed out that dinosaurs could not have been slow-moving cold-blooded animals if they were the active hunters indicated by their teeth and bones



  • Ostrom and Bakker’s dinosaur reconstructions are enormously more sophisticated than those of Richard Owen’s

  • At last we can understand why dinosaurs thoroughly dominated almost every ecological niche on the planet for tens of millions of years


  • Dinosaurs like Ornithomimus were more like modern flightless birds

  • “Ostrich mimic” dinosaurs had stereoscopic vision and large brains, and the added power of grasping arms and fingers!


  • Mantell, by the way, made a slight mistake when reconstructing Iguanodon, an error immortalized by Owen and Hawkins

  • Notice the thumb claws…


  • Mantell only found a single thumb claw, which he mistakenly mounted on the animal’s snout

  • So for all these years, Iguanodon has been literally thumbing its nose at everybody



  • Now often modeled as an efficient browser, a super-sized treetop grazer filling the same niche as the modern giraffe


  • One of the most startling transformations is reserved for Buckland’s Megalosaurus

  • Megalosaurus was now revealed as a truly frightening predator


  • Of course, there are limits on how agile dinosaurs might have been!

  • Now we see dinosaurs in a different light

  • The old veil of prejudice has been swept away


Directory: ~bfleury -> historyoflife -> lectures
~bfleury -> In our last lecture, we looked at the ways that trade, travel, technology and agriculture can provide new habitats and new dispersal routes for microbes
lectures -> Dinosaurs 3 Several morphological features suggest dinosaurs relied on visual displays for communication, like modern animals
lectures -> Cells to Organisms 3 Eukaryotic cell was a giant leap forward in the early history of life
lectures -> Id is nothing new latest attempt to put a modern face on some very old ideas is old wine in new bottles…
lectures -> The mystery of life itself… We each spend our own lifetimes trying to answer that question in our own way
lectures -> The Discovery of Time
lectures -> The Discovery of Time We have made great progress in discovering the history of life on Earth
lectures -> Origin of Life 3 How could a system as complex as a living cell get started?


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