The Museum houses one of the world’s most important dinosaur collections.
The collection includes 157 taxa, 115 consist of original material and 69 are type specimens.
Type specimens Species
The dinosaur collection was founded on Gideon Mantell’s collections, which were acquired in several batches in 1838 and 1853. Mantell’s collections are rich in material from the Lower Cretaceous (Wealden Group) of Sussex, UK.
Mantell’s collections include Iguanodon and Hylaeosaurus material, two of the three taxa that Richard Owen used to define Dinosauria in 1842.
Many other collections have been added since then. Material from the UK, USA and Canada, and southern and eastern Africa is particularly well represented.
The collections include:
- iguanodontians, including Iguanodon and Mantellisaurus
- hadrosaurs, like Edmontosaurus and Lambeosaurus
- ceratopsians, including Triceratops and Centrosaurus
- ankylosaurs, such as Polacanthus and Scolosaurus
- stegosaurs, including Stegosaurus and Dacentrurus
- small ornithopods, like Hypsilophodon and Zalmoxes
- primitive ornithischians, including Abrictosaurus and Lesothosaurus
The collections include
- ‘prosauropods’, like Massospondylus and Pantydraco
- sauropods, including Cetiosauriscus and Jainosaurus
- theropods, such as:
- megalosauroids, like Megalosaurus and Duriavenator
- tyrannosauroids including Proceratosaurus and Tyrannosaurus
- spinosauroids, such as Baryonyx and Spinosaurus
- allosauroids, including Neovenator
- avian dinosaurs, such as Archaeopteryx
The dinosaur collections cover
The Middle Triassic (about 240 million years ago) to the Late Cretaceous (66 million years ago).
The museum’s holdings of Triassic dinosaurs are relatively small, but include important specimens of early dinosaurs and dinosaur relatives from the UK, such as Camelotia, Pantydraco and Saltopus. Our collections also include the earliest known dinosaur yet described, Nyasasaurus, which was discovered in the Middle Triassic Manda Beds of Tanzania.
We have an extensive collection of Jurassic material, ranging from Early Jurassic ‘prosauropods’ and early ornithischians through to specimens from some of the ‘classic’ Late Jurassic dinosaur localities of the Morrison Formation (USA) and Tendaguru Beds (Tanzania). We also hold significant material of UK Middle Jurassic dinosaurs, which represents one of the most important records for dinosaurs of this age from anywhere in the world.
Museum expeditions to the Late Jurassic Tendaguru Beds in Tanzania between 1924 and1930 resulted in the discovery of material from the sauropod Giraffatitan brancai, many other sauropods and the small ornithopod Dysalotosaurus.
The Reynolds collection from the UK (dating from the 1930s) includes important megalosaur material from the Middle Jurassic of Gloucestershire, UK. In 1942, the unique type specimen of the earliest tyrannosauroid, Proceratosaurus bradleyi, also from the Middle Jurassic of Gloucestershire, was donated to the Museum.
The type specimen of Scelidosaurus harrisonii from the Early Jurassic of Dorset represents the earliest stages of armoured dinosaur evolution. Other primitive ornithischians from similarly-aged rocks in southern Africa (Abrictosaurus, Heterodontosaurus and Lesothosaurus) provide clues on the origin of ornithischians.
A major new acquisition was the most complete Stegosaurus ever found, from the Late Jurassic Morrison Formation of Wyoming. The specimen is nicknamed ‘Sophie’ and is on display in the Museum’s Earth Hall.
Perhaps the most important dinosaur in our collection is the Late Jurassic early bird Archaeopteryx, which was critical for unraveling the relationship between dinosaurs and birds. It can be seen in the Treasures Gallery.
A major strength of the collection is in Early Cretaceous dinosaur material from the UK, as well as good specimens of Late Cretaceous dinosaurs from the USA, Canada, Romania and India.
We hold the holotype of the spinosauroid Baryonyx walkeri, collected from Barremian-aged rocks in Surrey, UK, in 1983, as well as numerous specimens of other Wealden dinosaurs from the Isle of Wight and other parts of southern England, such as
- the holotypes of the allosauroid Neovenator
- the ankylosaurs Polacanthus and Hylaeosaurus
- the ornithopods Barilium, Hypselospinus Hypsilophodon, Mantellisaurus and Valdosaurus.
Other major Cretaceous holdings include important specimens from the Late Cretaceous of Canada, including horned dinosaurs like Chasmosaurus and Spinops, as well as superbly preserved specimens, with skin impressions, of the hadrosaur Edmontosaurus. Our collection also includes the first known specimen of Tyrannosaurus rex, which was discovered in Wyoming, USA, the lower jaw of which is on display in the Dinosaur Gallery.
An intriguing collection is that from the very latest Cretaceous of Romania, collected by the eccentric, but brilliant, palaeontologist Franz Nopcsa von Felső-Szilvás, which includes the remains of dwarfed dinosaurs.
Finally, to illustrate the global reach of our collection, we also have a small ornithopod, not yet fully described, that was collected from Vega Island on the Antarctic Peninsula in 1989.
Gideon Mantell collections
Our collection was founded on Gideon Mantell’s collections, which are rich in material from the Lower Cretaceous (Wealden Group) in Sussex, UK.
Mantell’s collections include Iguanodon and Hylaeosaurus, two of the three taxa Richard Owen named Dinosauria in 1842.
One of Mantell’s most significant specimens, nicknamed the ‘Mantell-piece’, is on display in the Dinosaur Gallery. It was the first example of a partial dinosaur skeleton, rather than the isolated bones that had been found prior to its discovery. It is an example of Mantellisaurus, which was named in Mantell’s honour in 2007.
John Whitaker Hulke, Reginald Walter Hooley and William D Fox collections
Material from the Lower Cretaceous of the Isle of Wight in the UK includes the Hulke, Hooley and Fox collections of sauropods, Mantellisaurus and Hypsilophodon. These collections date from the late 1800s to the early 1900s.
Franz Nopcsa von Felső-Szilvás collection
The Nopcsa collection, dating from 1906, contains small iguanodontians, hadrosaurs and sauropods from the Late Cretaceous of Romania.
The collection contains the first known examples of dwarf dinosaurs found from anywhere in the world. These dinosaurs, which are descendants of much larger animals, reached their small sizes as they evolved on the small islands that made up this region during the Late Cretaceous.
Charles H Sternberg collections
The Museum commissioned professional fossil collector Charles H Sternberg to collect material on two occasions.
In 1909, he collected material from the Maastrichtian Lance/Hell Creek Formation in Wyoming, USA. A Triceratops skull from this collection is on display in the Dinosaur Gallery.
In 1916, he collected fossils from the Campanian Oldman Formation in Alberta, Canada. The area is now part of the Dinosaur Provincial Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Some of this collection was lost at sea in 1917 when the SS Mount Temple was sunk by a German torpedo. The surviving material includes the type specimen of the horned dinosaur Spinops.
W E Cutler Collections
Material collected by WE Cutler from Mexico Ranch, in Dinosaur Provincial Park, Alberta, Canada, was purchased in 1916. The collection includes an excellent skull of the horned dinosaur Centrosaurus and a spectacular large ankylosaur, Scolosaurus, which is on display in the Museum's Dinosaur Gallery.
Country of origin
The collection is particularly strong in UK, US Canadian and southern and East African dinosaurs, although many other countries are also represented.
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We have set out on an ambitious programme to develop a new science and digitisation centre at Harwell Campus in Oxfordshire by 2026. As we prepare for the move, access to some collections will be affected.
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