Posts Tagged ‘Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences’

Dinosaurs!

June 3rd, 2010

I’m back from the pilgrimage! And I seem to finally have access to both my laptop and the internet on a semi-regular basis.

What can I tell you about the pilgrimage? No words can describe it really. Suffice it to say it’s probably the best single thing I’ve ever done in my life. Quite the eye-opener on a lot of levels. I’ll share more on that later.

For now, I’m sorting through the pictures I took on the way. Stay tuned for more updates on that soon.

Meanwhile, here’s a little something for the little kid in all of you.

A while back I had the opportunity to visit the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences in Brussels. I’d been wanting to visit the place for ages now for one reason: Iguanodons! You’re probably going “What’s he on about?”

The story of Iguanodons is the one which first got me interested in dinosaurs as a kid.

Iguanodons were first discovered in 1822 and were one of the three types first used to define dinosaurs (They were also one of the dinosaur types which inspired Godzilla!). The story of the Iguanodon has had scientists of repute at each others’ throats for decades. After the idea that dinosaurs existed was finally accepted by the scientific community, then came the fighting over what Iguanodons looked like. Their reconstructions went through several stages. First they were described as massive quadrupedal reptiles with a rhinoceros-style horn on their snouts. Then came a second representation which lasted for over a century: a bipedal animal with spikes for thumbs which used its tail to prop itself up. Finally, as of the 1960s, this last gave way to the current interpretation: a versatile reptile able to shift from all fours to two at will. Trust me, all very interesting to a 6 or 8 year old when condensed into 10-minutes in a documentary.

In 1879, 29 skeletons were found in a coal mine in Bernissart in Belgium at a depth of some 322 meters. These skeletons were painstakingly excavated and put together (incorrectly) by Louis Dollo. Nine of these skeletons can now be seen at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences. They can’t take them apart and put the bones together as they currently believe they should be as the skeletons are now too fragile to disassemble and reassemble.

Anyway, enough talk. If you want to know more about the Iguanodon, you can start here.

Here is a shot of Dollo’s Iguanodons, standing to attention. Below that is one of an Iguanodon assembled as currently accepted by the scientific community.

Below is another childhood favourite, Dimetrodon. It’s not a dinosaur, but a pelicosaur. Dimetrodon was an apex predator which lived between 280-265 million years ago. Dinosaurs showed up about 230 million years ago.

I leave you with a shot of a beast which needs no introduction: the T-Rex.

Do make time to visit the museum if you have the time when you’re next in Brussels. They have the largest dinosaur gallery in Europe and (if dinos aren’t your thing) have loads more besides.

More coming soon!

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