Megalosaurus new

Hypothetical reconstruction of Megalosaurus

Megalosaurus is a theropod dinosaur of the Jurassic, and the first non-avian dinosaur to be described.


Only a few bones of Megalosaurus have ever been found, namely a lower jaw and fragments of some hind limbs. However, it is now believed that it had a typical theropod shape, and measured about 9 meters long.[1]


Old megalosaurus

A sculpture of Megalosaurus in Crystal Palace Park based on early restorations

Although Megalosaurus was always believed to be a large carnivorous reptile, it was not considered a dinosaur until 1842, when the name was invented.

Megalosaurus was once used as a wastebasket taxon, and any indeterminate theropod material was usually placed into this genus. In the 20th century it was finally suggested that the name be limited to the fossils found in the original quarry. However, it was then suggested that the bones of Megalosaurus were probably those of several different types of theropod, and that Megalosaurus may not even be a valid genus. In 2008, though, it was shown that the original lower jaw had several apomorphic characteristics that distinguished it from other genera.[2]


Part of a femur believed to come from Megalosaurus was uncovered in a limestone quarry in Oxfordshire, in 1676. The bone was sent to Robert Plot, who interpreted it as the end of a femur from a giant human.[3]

The bone was described again in 1763 by Richard Brookes, who named it "Scrotum humanum" due to its apparent resemblance to human testicles. The name was never subsequently used, and the name is considered a nomen oblitum. If it was actually supposed to have represented a new genus, the name would have had priority over Megalosaurus. However, rules of the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature state that if a name is not considered valid after 1899, it is exempt from priority.[4]

Megalosaurus Buckland

Engraving of the Megalosaurus jaw fossil

In 1815, more discoveries were made in the Stonesfield quarry. Professor William Buckland acquired the bones, and in 1818 identified them as the bones of a giant lizard, with the help of Georges Cuvier. Buckland described the bones in 1824 and gave them the name Megalosaurus.[5] He estimated the animal to be 12 meters long. In 1827, Gideon Mantell gave the species a full name, Megalosaurus bucklandii.[6]

In 1852, Megalosaurus was one of the species chosen to be reconstructed at Crystal Palace Park. However, it was shown to be a lumbering quadruped instead of a biped, as early paleontologists did not have complete skeletons to work off of. It was also portrayed as having a hump, a feature borrowed from the genus Becklespinax.[7]

Megalosaurus footprints

Replica of footprints

In 1997, a trackway of footprints thought to be from Megalosaurus was discovered in a quarry northeast of Oxford.



Megalosaurus was a carnivore, preying on other dinosaurs of the time.


Richard Owen examined a rib bone of Megalosaurus that had a swollen spot, which may have been caused by an injury or infection.[8]

In popular cultureEdit

Megalosaurus was the first dinosaur to appear in popular culture, in Charles Dickens's 1852 novel Bleak House:

Implacable November weather. As much mud in the streets as if the waters had but newly retired from the face of the earth, and it would not be wonderful to meet a Megalosaurus, forty feet long or so, waddling like an elephantine lizard up Holborn Hill.

- Bleak House (Charles Dickens)

It also appeared in other forms of media.


  1. Benson, R.B.J. (2010). "A description of Megalosaurus bucklandii (Dinosauria: Theropoda) from the Bathonian of the UK and the relationships of Middle Jurassic theropods". Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 158: 882. doi:10.1111/j.1096-3642.2009.00569.x.
  2. Benson, R.B.J., Barrett, P.M., Powell, H.P., and Norman, D.B. (2008). "The taxonomic status of Megalosaurus bucklandii (Dinosauria, Theropoda) from the Middle Jurassic of Oxfordshire, UK." Palaeontology, 51(2): 419-424.
  3. Sarjeant, William A.S. (1997). "The earliest discoveries". In Farlow, James O.; and Brett-Surman, Michael K. (eds.). The Complete Dinosaur. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. pp. 3–11. ISBN 0-253-33349-0.
  4. Halstead, L.B. (1970). "Scrotum humanum Brookes 1763 - the first named dinosaur." Journal of Insignificant Research, 5: 14–15.
  5. Buckland, W. (1824). "Notice on the Megalosaurus or great Fossil Lizard of Stonesfield." Transactions of the Geological Society of London, series 2, vol. 1: 390–396.
  6. Mantell, G. (1827). "Illustrations of the geology of Sussex: a general view of the geological relations of the southeastern part of England, with figures and descriptions of the fossils of Tilgate Forest."
  8. Molnar, R. E., 2001, Theropod paleopathology: a literature survey: In: Mesozoic Vertebrate Life, edited by Tanke, D. H., and Carpenter, K., Indiana University Press, p. 337-363.