History of discovery

The unique specimen of Kukufeldia was purchased from local quarrymen by Captain Lambart Brickenden, who, in 1848, presented it to Dr Gideon Mantell.

Over 20 years earlier, Mantell, a country doctor based in Lewes, East Sussex, had named the dinosaur Iguanodon on the basis of several distinctive, but isolated, teeth. These teeth were found in the same general vicinity as the new jaw (somewhere near Cuckfield) and were from the same geological horizon (the ‘Cuckfield Stone’).

Following the initial description of these teeth, Mantell and colleagues described many other isolated bones of dinosaurs from the same deposits. However, good skull material remained elusive. As a result, the ‘Brickenden jaw’ was one of the first complete dinosaur jaws to be discovered from anywhere in the world. Consequently, an excited Mantell quickly penned a scientific article on this specimen, in which he identified it as a jaw of his beloved Iguanodon (Mantell 1848).

Most of Mantell’s collection, including the Brickenden jaw and many other historically important fossils, now resides here, in the Natural History Museum. Other dinosaur workers examined the Brickenden jaw and have generally accepted Mantell’s identification of the jaw as Iguanodon. As remains of Iguanodon are very common, and complete skeletons and skulls are now available for study, the Brickenden jaw has been largely forgotten and rarely examined.

Nevertheless, a visiting American PhD student, Andrew McDonald, recently re-examined the jaw and revealed that it differed from those of Iguanodon in several respects. Andrew then went on to collaborate with 2 Museum scientists, Dr Paul Barrett and Sandra Chapman, to describe the jaw and compare it with other closely related dinosaurs.

This work led the team to suggest that the Brickenden jaw was not Iguanodon after all, but the sole example of a previously unidentified new dinosaur. Hence, it has been named as a new species more than 160 years after its initial discovery.

The name honours the locality:

  • Kukufeld is an Old English name for Cuckfield
  • tilgatensis refers to the Tilgate Forest - the surrounding region that has yielded many dinosaur fossils
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