First complete dinosaur skeleton reconstructed and described after 162 years

Sometimes you have to wait for your turn for centuries, and literally, and Scelidosaurus itself, the first complete dinosaur skeleton we’ve found on Earth so far, has found that out.

Exactly 162 years had to wait for the said skeleton to be researched and reconstructed, because we are talking about the remains of Scelidosaurus, which were found on the coast below the Black Ven cliff, located in the county of Dorset, England, in 1858! What has happened to them over the years? They grew dust in a warehouse at the Natural History Museum in London, where they were finally found and given more time by Dr. David Norman of Cambridge University. But on the other hand, what’s that compared to the age of the dinosaur itself, which has been estimated to be 193 million years old – it’s also important to remember that dinosaurs as such have only been known to us for a relatively short time, as although it’s hard to believe, we only discovered their existence around 1824.

What’s more, the word dinosaur didn’t appear until 1842, introduced into the dictionary by Richard Owen. Granted, we had come across their remains before that, but back then they were considered the remains of… dragons and giants. Well, it’s not very scientific, but in our justification it should be noted that it was only in 1858 that the first complete dinosaur skeleton was found, and it was our today’s hero (it should be noted, however, that 4 years earlier the first reconstructed dinosaur skeleton cast in concrete was made available for viewing!) It rested alongside other members of its species in a quarry where it was found by James Harrison, who searched for the remains there at the request of the aforementioned Richard Owen of the British Museum.

As a result, Richard Owen published two articles, but these were short and incomplete, evidence that the dinosaur had never been thoroughly studied and described. It wasn’t until around 2017 that someone took a renewed interest in them, and that was Dr. David Norman of Cambridge University, who not only made a proper reconstruction, but was also able to locate this particular species on the dinosaur evolutionary tree, causing some confusion in the process. For until now, scientists believed that dinosaurs could be divided into two groups: reptilian dinosaurs and avian dinosaurs, which Norman and his students cast doubt on, claiming that both groups had a common ancestor, with Scelidosaurus somewhere close to the origin of the latter.

What’s more, the skeleton reveals some novelties we haven’t seen before in other dinosaurs: – No one knew the skull had horns on its back edge. It also has several bones that we’ve never seen in other dinosaurs. What else is easy to tell from the texture of the skull bone, it was covered with specific scales when the reptile was alive, something like the heads of modern turtles, Norman adds. There are also a number of bony spikes and plates to protect the skin, which seemed to suggest that we are dealing with an ancestor of stegosaurs and armored ankylosaurs, but research has shown that the truth is only related to the latter. – It is a great pity that such an important dinosaur, discovered at such a crucial time in the early days of dinosaur research, has never been adequately described. Now it is – finally! – accurately described and provides a wealth of detail and new insight into the biology of early dinosaurs. It’s a shame we couldn’t have done it sooner, but as they say, better late than never,” Norman adds.

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