Taxonomy and systematics of dinosaurs

Dinosaurs were a diverse group and new species are being discovered at an unprecedented rate. Taxonomy and systematics provide the basis for understanding dinosaur diversity through time and enable more accurate insights into the evolutionary palaeobiology of the group.

A number of Palaeontology Department projects focus on these areas, redescribing key dinosaur specimens and revising classifications.

Current projects:

  1. Taxonomy and systematics of iguanodontian dinosaurs
    Hadrosaurs represent one of the most diverse dinosaur groups and possess a large number of specialisations relating to feeding and social behaviour.

    The origin of this group comes from a plexus of taxa termed iguanodontians, many of which require revision. This work aims to redescribe key specimens from the UK (Valdosaurus) and China.

    We are working in collaboration with Dr Richard Butler from Bayerische Staatssammlung für Paläontologie und Geologie (BSPG), Munich and Prof Wang Xiao-Lin and Prof Xu Xing from the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthrology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing.

  2. Re-description of basal ornithischian dinosaurs
    New work on ornithischian interrelationships suggests that heterodontosaurids are the basal-most members of this group, but this result remains controversial.

    To test this idea we are carrying out a re-description of key heterodontosaurid specimens in the Natural History Museum’s collections, including Abrictosaurus, in collaboration with Dr Richard Butler from Bayerische Staatssammlung für Paläontologie und Geologie (BSPG), Munich.

  3. Sauropodomorph dinosaurs from China
    China possesses a remarkable diversity of sauropodomorph taxa, many of which are pivotal in debates over the phylogeny of the group.

    This project aims to redescribe many of these important animals, including Lower and Late Jurassic forms such as Lufengosaurus, Yunnanosaurus and Mamenchisaurus, and to assess their impact on sauropodomorph diversity and systematics. 

    We are working in collaboration with Dr Paul Upchurch, University College London (UCL), and Prof Wang Xiao-Lin and Prof Xu Xing from the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthrology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing.

Palaeontology Department staff involved in these projects:

  • Re-description of basal ornithischian dinosaurs

    Learn about Palaeontology Department research to test the idea that heterodontosaurids are the basal-most members of the ornithischian group of dinosaurs.

  • Iguanodon atherfieldensis
    Taxonomy and systematics of iguanodontian dinosaurs

    This project aims to redescribe key iguanodontian dinosaur specimens from the UK and China in order to help revise the group's taxonomy and better understand the origin of hadrosaurs, one of the most diverse dinosaur groups.

  • Shunosaurus
    Sauropodomorph dinosaurs from China

    China possesses a remarkable diversity of sauropodomorph dinosaurs. By redescribing important examples and assessing their impact on the diversity and systematics of the group, this project will help inform debates about the phylogeny of the group.

Project staff