A Collection of Dinosaur Facts: Naming of the Dinos

Have you ever wondered what was the species of dinosaur that first came to the public’s attention? Which dinosaur species was the first to be found in the United States? In this article, you will learn some of the basic facts concerning dinosaurs as a whole, including the species considered the longest of the bunch.

Naming of the Dinosaurs

Thanks to Sir Richard Owen, we know what to call the large repitilian beasts that roamed the earth millions of years ago. The English biologist, comparative anatomist, and paleontologist coined the word ‘dinosaur’ during the 1800s. Dinosauria was the term he used, which meant ‘Terrible Reptile’ or ‘Fearfully Great Reptile.’ His other claim to fame was speaking out against Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection.  

The First Dinosaur Named

In 1824, Reverend William Buckland officially named the first dinosaur. He called it the Megalosaurus, which translated into ‘great lizard.’ The creature measured around 9 meters long and 3 meters tall. The dinosaur was a large meat eater that belonged to the theropod group that thrived during the Middle Jurassic period , about 166 million years ago. Fossils of the creature has been found throughout Europe in Southern England, France and Portugal. The Megalasaurus is the first genus of dinosaur (outside of birds) that was described and named.

Remains of the dinosaur were first described in scientific literature before Buckland ever came into the picture. Part of the bone had been uncovered in a limestone quarry at Cornwell near Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, England in 1676. The fragment was shipped to Robert Plot, who was a professor at the University of Oxford. He also served as the first curator of the Ashmolean Museum. Plot published a description of the dinosaur in the Natural History of Oxfordshire in 1676, and correctly identified the bone as part of the femur of a large animal that was too large to be grouped with any species known to man at the time.

Plot thought he was looking at what would be the thigh bone of a giant human, such as the kind of man that had been mentioned in the Bible. It has since been described as the Megalosaurus. Sadly, the original bone was lost over time, but an illustration of the finding still exists.

First Dino Discovered in America

The first dinosaur remains discovered in North America dates back to 1854 when Ferdinand Vandiveer Hayden was conducting an exploration of the upper Missouri River. He also uncovered a small collection of teeth that were later described by Joseph Leidy in 1856. He said that the teeth came from the Trachodon, Troodon, and Deinodon.

What is an Apatosaurus?

An Apatosaurus was a plant-eating dinosaur that lived during the late Jurassic Period, which was about 157 to 146 million years ago. Characteristics of the creature included a small head, long neck, and teeth shaped like a pencil. The dinosaur walked on four legs in a rather slow manner. It was also considered one of the largest of land animals.