Lizard or Sauro Information about Dinosaurs

(Greek elements that create words that mean "lizard")

This information about dinosaurs has been gleaned from many sources and there is no guarantee that these presentations are accurate. After all, many millions of years have passed since these creatures existed and there is often no consensus as to what they really looked like nor how they behaved.

  1. The word dinosaur really does not mean "terrible-lizard". Actually it was originally defined to mean "fearfully-great lizard", by Richard Owen in 1842. The Greek word deinos, when used as a superlative, means "fearfully-great" ; as used by Homer in The Iliad. It became simplified over time, as a simple adjective, to mean "terrible". In reality, many scientists believe that dinosaurs were neither "terrible" nor "lizards".
  2. When the secrets of prehistoric life were unearthed, scientists tried to picture the feelings of those confronted by the great monsters whose fossil bones were coming again to light. Sir Richard Owen (English, 1804-1892) named a few of these creatures, from Greek words. Thus there was the "terrible (fearful) lizard"; Greek deinos, "fearful" + sauros,, "lizard".

    Dictionary of Word Origins by Joseph T. Shipley
  3. Sir Richard Owen was an English zoologist and paleontologist (palaeontologist, British). In 1856, he was appointed superintendent of the natural history department of the British Museum and was instrumental in the establishment of the separate British Museum (Natural History), now the Natural History Museum, becoming its first director in 1881.
  4. In addition to all of his important scientific publications, Sir Owen named and reconstructed numerous celebrated fossils, including the giant moa bird Dinornis, the dinosaur Iquanodon, and the earliest bird, the Archaeoptryx.

  5. Dinosaurs are the best examples of success and adaptation known. They ruled the Earth longer than any other land animals, including humans (about 150 million years), and gave rise to birds.
  6. Dinosaurs and "humans" did not coexist. The death of the last dinosaur and the appearance of the first "human" (genus homo) was separated by about 64 million years.

Mankind and dinosaurs were separated by time, but danger still existed.

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Mankind should not feel too self assured about the absence of threats from dinosaurs because if the dinosaurs could not touch them, there were plenty of other deadly dangers in each era.

Turning one's back on present dangers and pain
Cancels out the advantages we have from past gain.
Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future
And time future contained in time past.
—T.S. Eliot

Dinosaurs are said to have existed in the Mesozoic era while mankind lived in the Cenozoic era; therefore, authorities maintain that mankind did not exist in the same time period as the dinosaurs.

The Mesozoic era is defined as "belonging to, or designating the third era of geologic time, including the Cretaceous, Jurassic, and Triassic periods and marked by the predominance of reptilian life forms."

The Cenozoic era, is said to be "of or belonging to, or designating the latest era of geologic time, which includes the Tertiary and Quaternary periods and is marked by the evolution of mammals, birds, plants, modern continents, and glaciation."

  • Dinosaurs were not "warm-blooded"; like modern mammals, nor were they "cold-blooded" like modern lizards. Most specialists believe that dinosaurs were "dinosaur-blooded", a condition that combines "warm-bloodedness" with a changing metabolism over the animal's lifetime. A new unofficial term, metathermy, has been proposed for this condition in Mesozoic dinosaurs.
  • Popular books, movies, and TV specials are not necessarily completely accurate. They often contain errors and outdated information, and may reflect the personal bias of the writer. Most dinosaur books and TV scripts are not reviewed by professional dinosaur paleontologists.
  • Dinosaurs did not live and die at the same time. The distance in time between Tyrannosaurus and Apatosaurus (formerly called "Brontosaurus") is the same amount of time as between Tyrannosaurus and the first humans, about 65 million years. Of the (approximately) 350 known mesozoic dinosaurs, only one to two dozen species faced the final extinction in North America.
  • Mammals did not arise after the dinosaurs, and there is no evidence that they helped drive the dinosaurs into extinction by eating their eggs. Mammals and dinosaurs both appeared in the Upper Triassic Period.
  • Did an asteroid (or comet) kill the dinosaurs? The "asteroid theory" of dinosaur extinction has not been proven nor solved. "Proof" that an asteroid hit the Earth at the end of the Cretaceous does not automatically prove that it killed the dinosaurs. Most dinosaur specialists (most articles on this topic are written by non-dinosaur specialists) are willing to accept that an asteroid hit the earth, but not that it was the one cause of the Mesozoic extinctions.
  • The remaining unsolved question is when did the asteroid hit? Was it before, during, or after the "classic dinosaurs" went extinct?
  • All big "monster" reptiles from the prehistoric past are not dinosaurs. They represented less than 10% of the 40 groups of reptiles from the Mesozoic Era. Pterodactyls, sea-serpents, giant lizards, pelycosaurs, and other big prehistoric beasts are not dinosaurs. Monsters and Dragons are the products of fiction and mythology while dinosaurs were real.
  • Archaeologists do not dig up dinosaurs. Archaeology (a subdivision of Anthropology) deals only with mankind and covers the last four million years. Paleontology (a combination of Geology and Biology), deals with all fossils and covers the last "3.5 billion years"!
  • The preceding material is based on information presented in The Top 10 Misconceptions about Dinosaurs compiled by M. K. Brett-Surman, Donald F. Glut, and Thomas R. Holtz of the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. as seen on its Internet site.

  • The Greek term deinos was: "expressive of the quality of objects which, from their vastness, magnitude, etc., inspire fear, awe, reverence, power, etc." from Pickering: Comprehensive Lexicon of the Greek Language; 1873 edition. Richard Owen's first published definition of Dinosauria was "fearfully great lizards," and he noted that the group's peculiar anatomical features (fused sacrum, pachyderm-like limbs) were "all manifested by creatures far surpassing in size the largest of existing reptiles."
  • His arch-rival, Thomas Huxley (1869), even questioned if the name Dinosauria was appropriate after some members of the group turned out to be small. The term "terrible lizard" is now often wrongly interpreted to indicate a frighteningly vicious nature for dinosaurs, but this was not Owen's original idea, and results from the different range of meanings "terrible" can have in English.

  • Contrary to the version of history given in many current books, Owen did not introduce the term Dinosauria in a famous address to the British Association for the Advancement of Science at Plymouth, England, on August 2, 1841.

Detailed accounts of Owen's spoken lecture in a number of respected journals of the day (including The Literary Gazette and The Athenaeum) make no mention of the Dinosauria, and indicate that Owen treated Megalosaurus and Iguanodon only as large, if unusual, lizard-like reptiles.

It was only in the much-revised and expanded published version of the report, that appeared nearly a year later, in 1842, that Owen formally named and described the Dinosauria as a new order of reptiles, distinguished in particular by the presence of a sacrum with five fused vertebrae, as found in large mammals and birds.

Later research by the British geologist, Hugh Torrens, has documented how Owen came to his break-through insights between 1841 and 1842. Owen's reasons for erecting the Dinosauria are still said to be partly misinterpreted.

Henry Fairfield Osborn (1857-1935) was a US paleontologist and zoologist. He studied at Princeton and became Professor of Zoology at Columbia University and concurrently Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology at the American Museum of Natural History (1891-1910). Retaining a research professorship at Columbia, he was president of the American Museum of Natural History from 1908 to 1933. Although known as an autocratic leader, he revolutionized museum display with innovative instructional techniques and the acquisition of spectacular specimens, especially dinosaurs. He popularized paleontology, mounting skeletons in realistic poses with imaginative backdrops.

Dean William Buckland (1784-1856), was Professor of Geology at the University of Oxford, and Dean of Christ Church. About 1818, Buckland was shown some collections of bones and teeth of a large meat-eating reptile, but he could not identify the bones, and he showed them to Baron Georges Cuvier of Paris, the leading anatomist of his day, and to other experts. In the end, Buckland classified the animal as a giant reptile, probably a lizard.

Edward Drinker Cope (1840-1897), was considered one of the most prolific namers of reptiles, both living and fossil. During his research career he gave names to over 1,000 new species, including fishes and mammals as well. A long-term rival of Othneil Charles Marsh, Cope was a brilliant man, but is described as aggressive.

Friedrich von Huene (1875-1969), was considered one of the most prolific vertebrate paleontologists of the 20th century. He started his studies in the late 19th century, working on fossil brachiopods, but by 1902, he had shifted his interests to fossil reptiles.

He carried out major collecting trips in his native Germany, but also in previously unexplored parts of South America and Africa. In addition, he toured the museums of England, France, and North America; and in a long research career of nearly 70 years, he published hundreds of descriptions of fossil reptiles.

You may see much more about lizard or dinosaur words by going to this sauro- link.