Thecocoelurus is a dubious genus of theropod dinosaur from the early Cretaceous period of England. It is paleontologically significant for being one of the first two ornithomimosaur specimens known from England (along with Valdoraptor), and represents the earliest record of ornithomimosaurs in the world.

Temporal range: Early Cretaceous,[1] 129–125 Ma
Holotype vertebra
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Clade: Dinosauria
Order: Saurischia
Suborder: Theropoda
Clade: Ornithomimosauria
Genus: Thecocoelurus
Huene, 1923
T. daviesi
Binomial name
Thecocoelurus daviesi

Discovery and naming

Thecocoelurus is known only from half of a single cervical vertebra, discovered by the Rev. William Darwin Fox on the Isle of Wight during the 19th century. After his death the Fox Collection was acquired by the British Museum of Natural History. William Davies was the first to notice the specimen and assumed a close affinity with Coelurus.

It was described by Harry Govier Seeley in 1888. Seeley named the fossil Thecospondylus daviesi, referring it to a genus he had named earlier for the incomplete cast of a sacrum.[2] However, in 1901 Baron Franz Nopcsa renamed it Coelurus daviesi.[3] In 1923 Friedrich von Huene decided that it should be removed from either Thecospondylus or Coelurus and given its own genus, Thecocoelurus. The generic name is a contraction of "Thecospondylus" and "Coelurus".[4]

The holotype, NHMUK PV R181, was found in debris from a layer of the Wessex Formation, dating from the Barremian. It consists of the anterior end, about a third, of a cervical vertebra estimated by Seeley to have been nine centimetres long.


Von Huene originally assigned Thecocoelurus to the Coeluridae, but in 1926 speculated that due to the not inconsiderable size and typical structure of the vertebra it might belong to a member of the Ornithomimidae.[5] Though it has been since been typically identified as an indeterminate "coelurian" theropod, Thecocoelurus was reidentified by Darren Naish and colleagues in 2001 as a member of the Oviraptorosauria, a group of omnivorous maniraptoran theropods, which would make it the only oviraptorosaur fossil that has ever been found in Europe. Numerous detailed similarities are shared by the specimen and the cervical vertebrae of caenagnathid oviraptorosaurs. Naish et al. also considered Thecocoelurus to be a nomen dubium.[6] In 2004 it was theorized by James Kirkland that Thecocoelurus might not be an oviraptorosaur, but a member of the therizinosaur lineage instead, closely related to Falcarius,[7] again a unique occurrence for Europe.

A 2014 re-evaluation comparing the specimens with European ornithomimosaur fossils found that Thecocoelurus was likely one of the oldest known ornithomimosaurs, and a possible senior synonym of Valdoraptor.[1] However, researchers Micky Mortimer and Darren Naish have expressed doubt on its ornithomimosaur affinities.[8][9]

See also


  1. ^ a b c R. Allain, R. Vullo, J. Le loeuff & J.-F. Tournepiche (2014) European ornithomimosaurs (Dinosauria, Theropoda): an undetected record. Geologica Acta 12(2) (advance online publication) June 2014.
  2. ^ Seeley, H.G., 1888, "On Thecospondylus Daviesi (Seeley), with some remarks on the classification of the Dinosauria", Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society of London, 44: 79-86
  3. ^ Nopcsa, F., 1901. "Synopsis und Abstammung der Dinosaurier", Földtany Közlöny 30 (1901): 247-279
  4. ^ Huene, F. von, 1923, "Carnivorous Saurischia in Europe since the Triassic", Bulletin of the Geological Society of America, 34: 449-458
  5. ^ Von Huene, F., 1926, "The carnivorous Saurischia in the Jura and Cretaceous formations, principally in Europe", Revista del Museo de La Plata 29: 35-167
  6. ^ Naish, D., Hutt, S. and Martill, D.M., 2001, "Saurichian dinosaurs 2: theropods", In: Martill and Naish (eds). Dinosaurs of the Isle of Wight. The Palaeontological Association. pp. 242-309
  7. ^ Kirkland , J. I., Zanno, L. E., DeBlieux, D. D., Smith, D. K., and Sampson, S. D., 2004, "A new, basal-most therizinosauroid (Theropoda: Maniraptora) from Utah demonstrates a Pan-Laurasian distribution for Early Cretaceous therizinosauroids", Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 24(3) 78A
  8. ^ Naish, D. (2014, June 3). "Ostrich dinosaurs invade Europe! Or do they?". Retrieved from
  9. ^ Mortimer, M. (2014, May 26). "Is Thecocoelurus an ornithomimosaur?". Retrieved from
1923 in paleontology

Paleontology or palaeontology (from Greek: paleo, "ancient"; ontos, "being"; and logos, "knowledge") is the study of prehistoric life forms on Earth through the examination of plant and animal fossils. This includes the study of body fossils, tracks (ichnites), burrows, cast-off parts, fossilised feces (coprolites), palynomorphs and chemical residues. Because humans have encountered fossils for millennia, paleontology has a long history both before and after becoming formalized as a science. This article records significant discoveries and events related to paleontology that occurred or were published in the year 1923.


Baryonyx () is a genus of theropod dinosaur which lived in the Barremian stage of the Early Cretaceous Period, about 130–125 million years ago. The first skeleton was discovered in 1983 in the Weald Clay Formation of Surrey, England, and became the holotype specimen of B. walkeri, named by palaeontologists Alan J. Charig and Angela C. Milner in 1986. The generic name, Baryonyx, means "heavy claw" and alludes to the animal's very large claw on the first finger; the specific name, walkeri, refers to its discoverer, amateur fossil collector William J. Walker. The holotype specimen is one of the most complete theropod skeletons from the UK (and remains the most complete spinosaurid), and its discovery attracted media attention. Specimens later discovered in other parts of the United Kingdom and Iberia have also been assigned to the genus.

The holotype specimen, which may not have been fully grown, was estimated to have been between 7.5 and 10 m (25 and 33 ft) long and to have weighed between 1.2 and 1.7 t (1.3 and 1.9 short tons). Baryonyx had a long, low, and narrow snout, which has been compared to that of a gharial. The tip of the snout expanded to the sides in the shape of a rosette. Behind this, the upper jaw had a notch which fitted into the lower jaw (which curved upwards in the same area). It had a triangular crest on the top of its nasal bones. Baryonyx had a large number of finely serrated, conical teeth, with the largest teeth in front. The neck formed an S-shape, and the neural spines of its dorsal vertebrae increased in height from front to back. One elongated neural spine indicates it may have had a hump or ridge along the centre of its back. It had robust forelimbs, with the eponymous first-finger claw measuring about 31 cm (12 in) long.

Now recognised as a member of the family Spinosauridae, Baryonyx's affinities were obscure when it was discovered. Some researchers have suggested that Suchosaurus cultridens is a senior synonym (being an older name), and that Suchomimus tenerensis belongs in the same genus; subsequent authors have kept them separate. Baryonyx was the first theropod dinosaur demonstrated to have been piscivorous (fish-eating), as evidenced by fish scales in the stomach region of the holotype specimen. It may also have been an active predator of larger prey and a scavenger, since it also contained bones of a juvenile Iguanodon. The creature would have caught and processed its prey primarily with its forelimbs and large claws. Baryonyx may have had semiaquatic habits, and coexisted with other theropod, ornithopod, and sauropod dinosaurs, as well as pterosaurs, crocodiles, turtles and fishes, in a fluvial environment.


Coelurus ( si-LEWR-əs) is a genus of coelurosaurian dinosaur from the Late Jurassic period (mid-late Kimmeridgian faunal stage, 155–152 million years ago). The name means "hollow tail", referring to its hollow tail vertebrae (Greek κοῖλος, koilos = hollow + οὐρά, oura = tail). Although its name is linked to one of the main divisions of theropods (Coelurosauria), it has historically been poorly understood, and sometimes confused with its better-known contemporary Ornitholestes. Like many dinosaurs studied in the early years of paleontology, it has had a confusing taxonomic history, with several species being named and later transferred to other genera or abandoned. Only one species is currently recognized as valid: the type species, C. fragilis, described by Othniel Charles Marsh in 1879. It is known from one partial skeleton found in the Morrison Formation of Wyoming, United States. It was a small bipedal carnivore with elongate legs.

Darren Naish

Darren Naish is a British vertebrate palaeontologist and science writer. He obtained a geology degree at the University of Southampton and later studied vertebrate palaeontology under British palaeontologist David Martill at the University of Portsmouth, where he obtained both an M. Phil. and PhD. He is founder of the blog Tetrapod Zoology, created in 2006.


Istiodactylus is a genus of pterosaur that lived during the Early Cretaceous period, about 120 million years ago. The first fossil was discovered on the English Isle of Wight in 1887, and in 1901 became the holotype specimen of a new species, O. latidens (Latin for "wide tooth"), in the genus Ornithodesmus. This species was moved to its own genus, Istiodactylus, in 2001; this name is Greek for "sail finger". More specimens were described in 1913, and Istiodactylus was the only pterosaur known from three-dimensionally preserved fossils for much of the 20th century. In 2006, a species from China, I. sinensis, was assigned to Istiodactylus, but it has since been found to belong to a different genus.

Istiodactylus was a large pterosaur; estimates of its wingspan range from 4.3 to 5 metres (14 to 16 ft). Its skull was about 45 centimetres (18 in) long, and was relatively short and broad for a pterosaur. The front of the snout was low and blunt, and bore a semicircle of 48 teeth. The triangular teeth were closely spaced, interlocked, and formed a "razor-edged" outline. The lower jaw also had a tooth-like projection that occluded with the teeth. The skull had a very large naso-antorbital opening (which combined the antorbital fenestra and the opening for the bony nostril) and a slender eye socket. Some of the vertebrae were fused into a notarium, to which the shoulder blades connected. It had very large forelimbs, with a wing-membrane distended by a long wing-finger, but the hindlimbs were very short.

Until the 21st century, Istiodactylus was the only known pterosaur of its kind, and was placed in its own family, Istiodactylidae, within the group Ornithocheiroidea. Istiodactylus differed from other istiodactylids in having a proportionally shorter skull. The distinctive teeth of Istiodactylus indicate that it was a scavenger that may have used its teeth to sever morsels from large carcasses in the manner of a cookie cutter. The wings of Istiodactylus may have been adapted for soaring, which would have helped it find carcasses before terrestrial carnivores. Istiodactylus is known from the Wessex Formation and the younger Vectis Formation, which represent river and coastal environments that were shared with various pterosaurs, dinosaurs, and other animals.

List of European dinosaurs

Dinosaurs evolved partway through the Triassic period of the Mesozoic era, around 230 Ma (million years ago). At that time, the earth had one supercontinental landmass, called Pangaea, of which Europe was a part. So it remained throughout the Triassic. By the start of the Jurassic period, some 30 million years later, the supercontinent began to split into Laurasia and Gondwana. The largest inlet from Panthalassa, the superocean that surrounded Pangaea, was called the Tethys Ocean, and as this inlet cut deeper into the supercontinent, much of Europe was flooded.

By the Cretaceous, from 145 to 66 million years ago, the continents were beginning to approach their present shapes, but not their present positions, and Europe remained tropical. At times, it was a chain of island-microcontinents including Baltica and Iberia.

Europe is relatively rich in fossils from the Jurassic-Cretaceous boundary, and much of what is known about European dinosaurs dates from this time. As the timeline below illustrates, there are substantial gaps in our knowledge from the rest of the Mesozoic. The absence of dinosaur genera from this time is because few fossils have been discovered, and almost certainly not because Europe contained few types of dinosaur—except, perhaps, immediately after the Triassic–Jurassic extinction event.

List of dinosaur genera

This list of dinosaurs is a comprehensive listing of all genera that have ever been included in the superorder Dinosauria, excluding class Aves (birds, both living and those known only from fossils) and purely vernacular terms.

The list includes all commonly accepted genera, but also genera that are now considered invalid, doubtful (nomen dubium), or were not formally published (nomen nudum), as well as junior synonyms of more established names, and genera that are no longer considered dinosaurs. Many listed names have been reclassified as everything from birds to crocodilians to petrified wood. The list contains 1559 names, of which approximately 1192 are considered either valid dinosaur genera or nomina dubia.


The Ornithomimosauria, ornithomimosaurs ("bird-mimic lizards") or ostrich dinosaurs are theropod dinosaurs which bore a superficial resemblance to modern ostriches. They were fast, omnivorous or herbivorous dinosaurs from the Cretaceous Period of Laurasia (now Asia, Europe and North America), as well as Africa and possibly Australia. The group first appeared in the Early Cretaceous and persisted until the Late Cretaceous. Primitive members of the group include Nqwebasaurus, Pelecanimimus, Shenzhousaurus, Hexing and Deinocheirus, the arms of which reached 2.4 m (8 feet) in length. More advanced species, members of the family Ornithomimidae, include Gallimimus, Struthiomimus, and Ornithomimus. Some paleontologists, like Paul Sereno, consider the enigmatic alvarezsaurids to be close relatives of the ornithomimosaurs and place them together in the superfamily Ornithomimoidea (see classification below).


Thecospondylus (THEEK-o-SPON-di-lus, "sheath vertebra") is a dubious genus of dinosaur from the Early Cretaceous of England

Dr. A.C. Horner, an amateur geologist living at Tonbridge, in the nineteenth century acquired a fossil found in the quarry of Southborough. He sent it to paleontologist Harry Govier Seeley who in 1882 described and named it as the type species Thecospondylus horneri. The genus name is derived from Greek theke meaning 'sheath' and spondylos meaning 'vertebra', a reference to the "extremely thin" bone forming the vertebrae. The specific name honours Horner.The holotype, BMNH R.291, was found in a layer of the Hastings Sand, sandstone dating from the Valanginian - Hauterivian. It consist of an elongated natural internal cast or endocast of the neural canal of the sacrum, about sixty centimetres long. It shows the divisions of at least five and probably seven sacral vertebrae. On three of them the cancellous bone is still present to which the generic name is referring. It is the only known fossil that can be definitely assigned to this genus.

A second species, T. daviesi, was added by Seeley in 1888, but later given its own genus, Thecocoelurus. In 1926 Friedrich von Huene renamed T. horneri to Thecocoelurus horneri, but this has not been commonly accepted, because Thecospondylus would have priority.

Based on such meagre material, the affinities of T. horneri have been hard to determine. Seeley himself merely assigned it to Dinosauria. Richard Lydekker in 1888 referred it to the Sauropoda. Von Huene however in 1909 considered it to be a member of the theropod family Coeluridae. Recent authors conclude it is a nomen dubium, of which it is not even certain whether it is a saurischian or an ornithischian.


Valdoraptor (meaning "Wealden plunderer") is a genus of theropod dinosaur from the Early Cretaceous. Its fossils were found in England. It is known only from bones of the feet. The holotype, BMNH R2559 (incorrectly given by Owen as BMNH R2556), was found near Cuckfield in layers of the Tunbridge Wells Sand Formation dating from the late Valanginian. The specimen is damaged lacking parts of the upper and lower ends. It has a conserved length of 215 millimetres (8.5 in) and an estimated length of 240 millimetres (9.4 in). This genus is paleontologically significant for being the first ornithomimosaur specimen known from England and represents the earliest record of ornithomimosaurs.

Wessex Formation

The Wessex Formation is a fossil-rich English geological formation that dates from the Berriasian to Barremian stages (about 145–125 million years ago) of the Early Cretaceous. It forms part of the Wealden Group and underlies the younger Vectis Formation and overlies the Durlston Formation. The dominant lithology of this unit is mudstone with some interbedded sandstones.


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