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Local Geology

Oxford Geology Group

Megalosaurs bucklandii

The first ever dinosaur to be described in scientific literature, was explicated in 1824, 18 years before Sir Richard Owen would coin the word 'dinosaur'.  

The lower part of a Megalosaurus femur was discovered in a limestone quarry at Cornwell, in Oxfordshire, in 1676.  This famous, but now lost, fossil became  known as the ‘Cornwell Bone’.   The Magdalen Hall (now Hertford College), Oxford don  Robert Plot first assumed that it was the lower-thigh bone of a Roman War Elephant and later a biblical giant rather than a dinosaur. Most memorably Plot's engraving of the thigh bone was later given the binomial monica Scrotum humanum by Richard Brookes in 1763.


“Come we next to such [stones] as concern the … Members of the Body: Amongst which, I have one dug out of a quarry in the Parish of Cornwell, and given me by the ingenious Sir Thomas Pennyston, that has exactly the Figure of the lowermost part of the Thigh-Bone of a Man or at least of some other Animal, with capita Femoris inferiora, between which are the anterior … and the large posterior Sinus … : and a little above the Sinus, where it seems to have been broken off, shewing the marrow within of a shining Spar-like Substance of its true Colour and Figure, in the hollow of the Bone ... In Compass near the capita Femoris, just two Foot, and at the top above the Sinus ... about 15 inches: in weight, though representing so short a part of the Thigh-Bone, almost 20 pounds”

(Plot, 1677, p. 132).



Most Megalosaurus bones have been discovered in England some have also been found in France.


Sometime around 1815 several bones were discovered in Stonesfield quarry, north of Oxford, they were acquired by the professor of Geology at Oxford University; William Buckland. He did not know what the bones belonged to until 1818; Georges Cuvier visited Buckland in Oxford where he concluded the bones must belong to a giant lizard-like creature. The findings were described in 1822 by James Parkinson and then in 1824 Buckland published his findings. The Latinised form of William Buckland's surname, ‘bucklandii’, was designated as the species name by Georges Cuvier. 


In 1997 extensive trackways were identified at Ardley quarry.  Several theropod and sauropod trackways were found the theropods tracks are thought to belong to  Megalosaurus and the sauropod tracks to Cetiosaurus oxoniensis.

Megalosaurus bucklandii drawn by Andrew Orkney

The images used to illustrate these pages were drawn by Andrew Orkney and commissioned by Oxford Geology Group.

Andrew sets out the thinking that informed his illustration


Megalosaurus bucklandii:

I intended to represent this predator in a realistic environment of open Jurassic woodland , which would have been filled with ginkgo, monkey-puzzle trees, cycads and lycopods. I have taken effort to bring the enormity of this beast to attention, by adding sagging combs and frills of flesh along the animal's throat, belly and tail. I have chosen to ornament this creature with specialised spiny scales, to make it appear more aggressive.


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