Sauropod dinosaur research: a historical review
Published:January 01, 2010
Michael P. Taylor, 2010. "Sauropod dinosaur research: a historical review", Dinosaurs and Other Extinct Saurians: A Historical Perspective, R. T. J. Moody, E. Buffetaut, D. Naish, D. M. Martill
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In the 169 years since Owen named a tooth as Cardiodon, the study of sauropod dinosaurs has gone through several distinct periods. In the early years, a sequence of descriptions of isolated skeletal elements gave rise to a gradually emerging understanding of the animals that would later be known as sauropods. The second phase began in 1871 with Phillips's description of Cetiosaurus oxoniensis, the first reasonably complete sauropod, and continued with the Marsh-Cope Bone Wars and the description of the nearly complete sauropods Camarasaurus and ‘Brontosaurus’ (= Apatosaurus). As these and other genera became better known, a third phase began, exploring not just the remains but the lives of these giants, with arguments about posture and habitat to the fore, and with the public becoming increasingly aware of sauropods owing to skeletal mounts. A ‘dark age’ followed during and after World War II, with sauropods considered uninteresting evolutionary dead ends and largely ignored. This was brought to an end by the ‘dinosaur renaissance’ that began in the late 1960s, since when work has recommenced with new vigour, and the public has been introduced to a more vigorous and terrestrial image of sauropods through film and television. Both diversity and disparity of sauropods continue to increase through new descriptive work, and the group is now seen as more fascinating and worthy of study than ever before.
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Dinosaurs and Other Extinct Saurians: A Historical Perspective
The discovery of dinosaurs and other large extinct ‘saurians’—a term under which the Victorians commonly lumped ichthyosaurs, plesiosaurs, pterosaurs and their kin—makes exciting reading and has caught the attention of palaeontologists, historians of science and the general public alike. The papers in this collection go beyond the familiar tales about famous ‘fossil hunters’ and focus on relatively little-known episodes in the discovery and interpretation (from both a scientific and an artistic point of view) of dinosaurs and other inhabitants of the Mesozoic world. They cover a long time span, from the beginnings of ‘modern’ scientific palaeontology in the 1700s to the present, and deal with many parts of the world, from the Yorkshire coast to Central India, from Bavaria to the Sahara. The characters in these stories include professional palaeontologists and geologists (some of them well-known, others quite obscure), explorers, amateur fossil collectors, and artists, linked together by their interest in Mesozoic creatures.