Published on February 7th, 2024 | by Emily Keeble


200 Years of Dinosaurs

It’s been two centuries since the first dinosaur, Megalosaurus, was named by William Buckland and to commemorate the date, the Natural History Museum hosted ‘200 Years of Dinosaurs: Their Rise, Fall, and Rebirth’. This international conference provides a snapshot of dinosaur research in 2024, demonstrating just how far our understanding of this group has come since 1824.

In our coverage of this event, we speak to many of the leading palaeontologists in the field, as we look back over the last 200 years of research and consider what the next 200 might reveal.

It has now been 200 years since the ‘great lizard’ Megalosaurus was named by William Buckland. The original holotype specimen made a star appearance at the conference courtesy of the Oxford University Museum of Natural History.
Whilst it wasn’t the first dinosaur (or even specimen of Megalosaurus) found and/or figured, Buckland’s 1824 description of the remains in the Transactions of the Geological Society, constitutes the first valid publication of the name.
Our understanding of this genus, and dinosaurs as a whole, has come an awfully long way in the 200 years since.
Prof. Paul Barrett, one of the conference organisers at the Natural History Museum, introducing the delegates to the conference.
Prof. Sterling Nesbitt, Virginia Tech, USA, presented on the earliest evolution of the dinosaurs during the Triassic Period. Whilst their rise to dominance seems superficially rapid, they represent just one of a number of closely-related groups that diversified during this time. It seems possible that it was their growth that allowed dinosaurs to survive whereas their closest relatives did not.
Simba Srivastava, a Virginia Tech undergraduate, reported on a new specimen of a Tawa-like dinosaur from the Coelophysis quarry of New Mexico, USA and what it means for the early dinosaur diversification.
Matt Dempsey, PhD student at the University of Liverpool, UK, spoke of the difficulties in modelling the biomechanics of dinosaurs and how examining modern groups might help us better predict the extent and thus performance of soft tissues not preserved in the fossil record.
The conference delegates were given access to the Natural History Museum, including the titanosaur exhibition.
They were also given the honour of dining in the Marine Reptiles Gallery of the Natural History Museum.
Dining under many of the original specimens collected by Mary Anning was quite a unique experience.
Emily hopes to return in 2124 for the 300 year anniversary conference.

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