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The dinosaur Iguanodon (1809-2013) - palaeobiology in action

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In 1809 William Smith collected some fossil bones from a quarry at Cuckfield (W. Sussex) while he was surveying and preparing the first ever geological map of Britain (1815). These bones lay unrecognised in the collections of the Geological Museum in London but much later could be demonstrated (by the speaker) to belong to Iguanodon, one of the three founding members of the Dinosauria.

The history of this animal proves to be fascinating and insightful because its discovery and subsequent study, by a variety of luminaries, charts the evolution of our ideas about how best to interpret such animals (given that there are no comparative living templates to work from). It also offers insights into the work of palaeobiologists who are trying to unravel, in an almost forensic manner, how such animals lived in a time, place and world that was so different to that of today; such work can also inform aspects of our understanding of the present day. Given the amount of time that has elapsed since its original discovery it is almost shocking to discover that much is still being revealed about Iguanodon (even its scientific name and what the animal – or animals are is a matter of some concern).

This talk is part of the Cambridge Philosophical Society series.

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