January 1, 1825 (a Saturday)

Mantell's iguanadon teeth.

On this date, the English physician and paleontologist Gideon Mantell (1790-1852) presented his paper Notice on the Iguanodon, a Newly Discovered Fossil Reptile, from the Sandstone of Tilgate Forest, in Sussex to members of England’s Philosophical Society. His paper linked the large hypothetical “Sussex lizard” to a modern species of reptile, the iguana. Mantell’s fossil was, after Buckland’s Megalosaurus, the second large fossil reptile discovered and named, but Iguanodon was, if anything, even more striking to Mantell’s contemporaries than was Buckland’s find because Iguanodon‘s teeth suggested that it was herbivorous. All of the largest modern reptiles (e.g., crocodiles, anacondas, komodo lizards) are carnivores, as was Megalosaurus, but Iguanodon was the first known large reptile that ate plants, and for this reason, it caused quite a stir in scientific circles.   This work led to Mantell’s election to the Royal Society of London on Dec 25, 1825.

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