The first time I came across a visual and a rather graphic representation of the dinosaur was when I watched Jurassic park during my childhood. Although most of the kids were terribly scared watching the mammoth creatures hunting down feeble human beings on celluloid, it was an idea that was fascinating to one and all―an extinct mammoth creature, brought back to life by manipulation of the genetic material and the following havoc created by the dinosaurs on Earth. Although the information about this extinct animal was known to the paleontologists and other paleontology enthusiasts, it was the Jurassic Park movie series that popularized these creatures in the common world enthralling children, youngsters, and adults alike.
Around 230 million years ago, in the Triassic period, there existed these fascinating creatures called dinosaurs. These were the dominant vertebrate animals of the terrestrial ecosystems for over 160 million years until the end of the Cretaceous period (which was 65 million years ago). Once perceived as slow, unintelligent cold-blooded animals, dinosaurs were extensively researched by means of their fossilized remains, which led to the conclusion that dinosaurs were, in fact, active animals with complex metabolisms and adaptations for social interactions.
What Are Dinosaur Fossils
The term 'fossil' refers to the mineralized or preserved traces of animals, plants, and other organisms. Just like many other fossils, dinosaur fossils are found throughout Earth's sedimentary layers. Excavating and analyzing these fossils, helps paleontologists to study the fossils in order to get an idea about the anatomy, bone structure, habitat, and information about the way dinosaurs lived on Earth. Paleontologists observed the fact that dinosaur fossils were found in the rock strata of every continent which led them to a conclusion that the dinosaur population was a highly diverse one with stark differences in structure, habitat, and diet.
There are various types of dinosaur fossils. There are domichnia which are fossilized dwelling structures, the fodinichnia which are the feeding traces left by the animals, the pascichnia which are the grazing traces made on the surface of the sediment, the cubichnia are the resting traces, whereas the repichnia are the traces of crawling and creeping on the sedimentary surfaces.
Record of First Seen Dinosaur Fossils
The first dinosaur fossil discovered in 1822 by a British geologist Gideon Mantell. These fossils were identified and named Iguanodon considering the similarities between the fossils and the bones of modern iguanas. In 1841, a British anatomist Sir Richard Owen coined the name 'dinosaur'. After this a number of scientists across the globe were taking keen interest in the study of dinosaurs. The first known American dinosaur was discovered in 1858, in the small town of Haddonfield, New Jersey.
The fossil finds at New Jersey, led to the discovery of a dinosaur species, which was named Hadrosaurus foulkii, after the town and the discoverer of the fossils - William Parker Foulke. This fossil discovery was extremely important since it was the first nearly complete dinosaur fossil found and more importantly it was a bipedal creature, which shattered the claims of several scientists who claimed that all dinosaurs had four feet. After these excavations for discovery and study of dinosaur fossils were carried out in various parts of the world; in 1986, the fossils of the most ancient dinosaur which is a nodosaurid Ankylosaur, was discovered on Ross Island, Antarctica.
Till date there have been numerous excavations and fossil discoveries related to dinosaurs―each of these discoveries leading humans closer to understanding the fascinating creatures called dinosaurs. However, no complete fossilized dinosaur skeleton has ever been discovered.