Published on Jan 19, 2020

Dinosaur Background Images

License Info: Creative Commons 4.0 BY-NC

In quieter moments when palaeontologists are given the chance to reflect on the current hot-spots for dinosaur discoveries thoughts may turn to the exciting fossil finds coming out of Angola, or the work being undertaken to research into the bizarre Dinosauria fauna that once roamed the prehistoric island of Hateg in southern Europe. Other scientists may comment on the amazing Early Cretaceous dinosaur discoveries that are being made around the town of Winton in Queensland (Australia), however, it is important that the fossil discoveries being made in India are not overlooked.

The Geology of India

India is a huge country with extensive Mesozoic-aged formations that are just beginning to reveal evidence of the amazing creatures that roamed what was to become the Asian sub-continent. The history of dinosaur discovery in India actually goes back a very long way. The first recorded dinosaur find was made in that country more than one hundred and eighty years ago, even before the term Dinosauria was coined and the Dinosauria established as a sub-Order of the Reptilia. After one hundred and thirty four years the very first dinosaur fossil described from India has been re-discovered, ironically amongst the collection of the Geological Survey of India at their Kolkata head-office.

Early Palaeontology on the Sub-Continent

In the days of the British Empire, when India was regarded as the “jewel in the crown”, the country was being mapped and explored by her colonial masters. In 1828, Lieutenant-Colonel W. H. Sleeman of the Bengal Army (later knighted and to become a Major-General, after a long and distinguished career in India), led a small expedition to Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh (central India). This military expedition with its accompanying geologists and cartographers mapped the strata in the area. This strata is now known as the Lameta Formation and it consists of Upper Cretaceous aged rocks (Maastrichtian faunal stage). The Lameta Formation is famous for its Late Cretaceous dinosaur fossils, most of them unique to this region. The fossils found include long-necked dinosaurs (Titanosauria) as well as many Theropods including large Abelisaurids that rivalled the Tyrannosaurs in terms of size. It was this military expedition that found the first evidence of dinosaurs in India. W. H. Sleeman is credited with finding a twenty centimetre long, isolated bone from what was later to be termed a dinosaur.


Discovery of Titanosaurs

The discovery, made in 1828 was only four years after the Reverend William Buckland had described the very first dinosaur (Megalosaurus bucklandii) and many years before the eminent English anatomist Sir Richard Own established the Dinosauria as the term used to describe these “terrible, fearfully great lizards”. Sir Richard Owen established the term Dinosauria – the dinosaurs in April 1842, although he later alluded to the fact that he had come up with the term earlier (August 1841).

The Indian specimen was actually a single, caudal vertebra (part of the tail), of a large, herbivorous dinosaur. It was passed amongst a number of distinguished Victorian scientists until 1877 when no record of where it was could be found. This dinosaur fossil, which had lain undiscovered for millions of years was lost to science from 1877 until April 2012 when it was discovered by members of the Geological Survey of India who were re-assessing the fossil heritage of the sub-continent. It was a chance discovery, the specimen having resided in the collection of the Geological Society of India at their Kolkata head-office.

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