Jump To Chapter: Contents 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 References

DINOSAURS

Chapter 6:

THE BEAKED DINOSAURS.

Order Orthopoda (Ornithischia or Predentata.)


The peculiar feature of this group of Dinosaurs is the horny beak or bill. The bony core sutured to the front of the upper and lower jaws was covered in life by a horny sheath, as in birds or turtles. But this is not the only feature in which they came nearer to birds than do the other Dinosaurs. The pelvic or hip bones are much more bird-like in many respects, especially the backward direction of the pubic bone, the presence of a prepubis, in the number of vertebrae coössified into a solid sacrum, in the proportions of the ilium and so on. Various features in the anatomy of the head, shoulder-blades and hind limbs are equally suggestive of birds, and it seems probable that the earliest ancestors of the birds were very closely related to the ancestors of this group of Dinosaurs. But the ancestral birds became adapted to flying, the ancestral Predentates to terrestrial life, and in their later development became as widely diversified in form and habits as the warm-blooded quadrupeds which succeeded them in the Age of Mammals.
Fig. 25.: Skulls of Iguanodont and Trachodont Dinosaurs.

Fig. 25.—Skulls of Iguanodont and Trachodont Dinosaurs. Iguanodon and Camptosaurus of the Jurassic and Comanchic; Kritosaurus and Corythosaurus of the Middle Cretacic (Belly River); Saurolophus of the late Cretacic (Edmonton); Trachodon of the latest Cretacic (Lance). The Iguanodon is European, the others North American. All 1/25 natural size.

These Beaked Dinosaurs were, so far as we can tell, all vegetarians. Unlike the birds, they retained their teeth and in some cases converted them into a grinding apparatus which served the same purpose as the grinders of herbivorous quadrupeds. It is interesting to observe the different way in which this result is attained. In the mammals the teeth, originally more complex in construction and fewer in number, are converted into efficient grinders by infolding and elongation of the crown of each tooth so as to produce on the wearing surface a complex pattern of enamel ridges with softer dentine or cement intervening, making a series of crests and hollows continually renewed during the wear of the tooth. In the reptile the teeth, originally simple in construction but more numerous and continually renewed as they wear down and fall out,[15] are banked up in several close packed rows, the enamel borders and softer dentine giving a wearing surface of alternating crests and hollows continually renewed, and reinforced from time to time, by the addition of new rows of teeth to one side, as the first formed rows wear down to the roots. This is the best illustrated in the Trachodon (see fig. 27); the other groups have not so perfect a mechanism.


A. The Iguanodonts: Iguanodon, Camptosaurus.

Sub-Order Ornithopoda or Iguanodontia.

In the early days of geology, about the middle of the nineteenth century, bones and footprints of huge extinct reptiles were found in the rocks of the Weald in south-eastern England. They were described by Mantell and Owen and shown to pertain to an extinct group of reptiles which Owen called the Dinosauria. So different were these bones from those of any modern reptiles that even the anatomical learning of the great English palaeontologist did not enable him to place them all correctly or reconstruct the true proportions of the animal to which they belonged. With them were found associated the bones of the great carnivorous dinosaur Megalosaurus; and the weird reconstructions of these animals, based by Waterhouse Hawkins upon the imperfect knowledge and erroneous ideas then prevailing, must be familiar to many of the older readers of this handbook. Life size restorations of these and other extinct animals were erected in the grounds of the Crystal Palace at Sydenham, London, and in Central Park, New York. Those in London still exist, so far as the writer is aware, but the stern mandate of a former mayor of New York ordered the destruction of the Central Park models, not indeed as incorrect scientifically, but as inconsistent with the doctrines of revealed religion, and they were accordingly broken up and thrown into the waters of the Park lake. Small replicas of these early attempts at restoring dinosaurs may still be seen in some of the older museums in this country and abroad.

 Fig. 26.: Skeleton of Camptosaurus, an American

Fig. 26.—Skeleton of Camptosaurus, an American relative of the Iguanodon.

The real construction of the Iguanodon was gradually built up by later discoveries, and in 1877 an extraordinary find in a coal mine at Bernissart in Belgium brought to light no less than seventeen skeletons more or less complete. These were found in an ancient fissure filled with rocks of Comanchic age, traversing the Carboniferous strata in which the coal seam lay, and with them were skeletons of other extinct reptiles of smaller size. The open fissure had evidently served as a trap into which these ancient giants had fallen, and either killed by the fall or unable to escape from the pit, their remains had been subsequently covered up by sediments and the pit filled in to remain sealed up until the present day. These skeletons, unique in their occurrence and manner of discovery, are the pride of the Brussels Museum of Natural History, and, together with the earlier discoveries, have made the Iguanodon the most familiar type of dinosaur to the people of England and Western Europe.

Fig. 27.: Teeth of the duck-billed dinosaur Trachodon.

Fig. 27.—Teeth of the duck-billed dinosaur Trachodon. The dental magazine has been removed from the lower jaw and is seen to consist of several close-set rows of numerous small pencil-like teeth which are pushed up from beneath as they wear off at the grinding surface.

Camptosaurus. The American counterpart of the Iguanodons of Europe was the Camptosaurus, nearly related and generally similar in proportions but including mostly smaller species, and lacking some of the peculiar features of the Old World genus. In the National Museum at Washington, are mounted two skeletons of Camptosaurus, a large and a small species, and in the American Museum a skeleton of a small species. It suggests a large kangaroo in size and proportions, but the three-toed feet, with hoof-like claws, the reptilian skull, loosely put together, with lizard-like cheek teeth and turtle beak indicate a near relative of the great Iguanodon.

Thescelosaurus. The Iguanodont family survived until the close of the Age of Reptiles, with no great change in proportions or characters. Its latest member is Thescelosaurus, a contemporary of Triceratops. Partial skeletons of this animal are shown in the Dinosaur Hall; a more complete one is in the National Museum.


FOOTNOTES:

[15] Trachodont teeth never drop out, they are completely consumed. Only in the Iguanodonts and Ceratopsia are they shed.—B. Brown.



All contents of www.AgeOfDinosaurs.com are Copyrighted