Dinosaur World

Richard Owen: Life, Biography and Invention of Dinosaur Name

Richard Owen one of the founders of the pre-historic animal that has gone into extinction is still a story that every scientist looks into day after day. Every story has a beginning and for the magnificent creatures we call dinosaurs their story begins in 1841. In that year, the British Association for the Advancement of Science held its annual meeting at Plymouth, a town on the south coast of England. One of the speakers was Professor Richard Owen who was a scientist and also a friend of Queen Victoria.

Richard Owen


For several years, Richard Owen had been studying animal fossils, particularly the huge bones of ancient reptiles. Most scientists believed theses bones were the remains of prehistoric crocodiles and gigantic lizards, but Richard Owen thought that this was wrong. The more he looked at the old bone, the more certain he was that they came from new groups of animals, a group that was completely different and unknown to science.

At the meeting in Plymouth, Richard Owen spoke for more than two hours to the leading scientists of his day. What astonished them was the fact that Richard Owen was not talking about the discovery of just one new animal. instead, he was talking about a completely new group which might contain different animals. It was one of the greatest discoveries of the 1800s, and it changed the way that people thought about on Earth.

Finding a name: How The names came about

Richard Owen’s group of animals needed a name. At his talk in 1841, Richard Owen has not used a name, but when he wrote about his ideas in 1842 he used the name ‘Dinosauria’. He made the name from two Greek words: ‘deinos’ (meaning terrible) and ‘sauros’ (meaning lizard). From then on there was new word in the English Language ‘Dinosaur’.

In 1854, Richard Owen helped a dinosaur park in crystal palace London. The park contained life-sized models of dinosaurs.

Richard Owen’s characteristics of dinosaurs

Today’s scientists use the following basic rules to decide whether the ancient creatures they are looking at are really dinosaurs:

  • Dinosaurs lived between 250- 65 million years ago,
  • They lived on land,
  • They could not fly,
  • They had straight legs tucked underneath their bones,
  • They were reptiles.

Although many other animals lived at the same time as the dinosaurs, they belonged to different groups. Some could fly and some lived in seas and ocean, so these prehistoric creatures were not dinosaurs. However, their story is just as interesting and important as that of the dinosaurs, since they too have played their part in the development of life on earth.

Richard Owen characteristics of dinosaur.

When did dinosaurs live: What actually occurred in the Age of dinosaurs? 

People many at times ask themselves this question, where did dinosaurs live? The animal kingdom is a huge collection of species; one estimate suggests there are as many as 10-15 million different kinds of creatures live on Earth today. Animals come in all shapes and sizes and live in all environments and it was just like this when dinosaurs lived on Earth too.

A popular name for the time when dinosaurs lived is the ‘Age of Dinosaurs’. This was a long time which lasted for about 185 million years. Humans, o the other hand, have lived on Earth for only about 2 million years. It’s very difficult to imagine such great span of time, since we are more used to thinking about time in terms of days, months and years. A simple explanation is that planet earth belonged to the dinosaurs for about ninety times longer that it has belonged to humans.

During this time, the age of the dinosaurs, the earth was an old planet. Scientists think that it formed about 4,500 million years ago. They divided the whole earth existence into intervals of time, each of which represents a chapter in the story of the planet. About 600 million years ago, a new chapter began. Scientists call this the Phanerozoic Eon. It is divided into three smaller parts called Eras. The oldest part is the Paleozoic era, which was followed by the Mesozoic Era, which inn urn was followed by the Cenozoic Era.

The Mesozoic era is the scientific name for the Age of dinosaurs. It was during the Mesozoic that dinosaurs appeared, and then died out. Humans appeared during the Cenozoic era, an interval of time which continues right up to the present day. The following table shows how the three eras fit together.

Era Meaning Millions of years ago Which animal appeared
Cenozoic Recent life 65 to the present day Mammals including humans
Mesozoic Middle life 250-65 Dinosaurs
Paleozoic Ancient life 600-250 Fish, amphibians, reptiles


The Mesozoic era is divided into three periods, the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous. You can see these in the periods fit together in the following table

Period Millions of years ago What happened to dinosaurs
Cretaceous 144-65 The last dinosaur
Jurassic 206-144 The greatest time for dinosaurs
Triassic 250-206 The first dinosaur


The meaning of Jurassic; the Jurassic period is named after the Jura Mountains which lie in Eastern France. These mountains are made from limestone, a rock that occurs in many parts of the world. Plant and animal fossils, including dinosaur remains are found in limestone which formed during the Jurassic period.


TRIASSIC PERIOD (250-206 million years ago)

LAND All land was joined together in the supercontinent called ‘Pangaea’.
CLIMATE The temperature on the land was constantly dry and warm.
PLANTS Trees such as conifers and ginkgoes flourished as did tree ferns, horse tails and cycads. There were no flowering plants.
DINOSAURS The first dinosaurs appeared small two-legged meat eaters and lager plant eaters that walked on two or four legs.
OTHER ANIMALS Insects, crocodiles, small mammals, frogs, turtles, fish, gliding lizards and flying pterosaurs

Richard Owen and the dinosaur world

Jurassic Period (206-144 million years ago)

LAND Pangaea began to crack apart, forming smaller land masses separated by sea.
CLIMATE The temperature became cooler and rainfall increased.
PLANTS Conifer forest covered vast area of land, and ginkgoes, palm, tree ferns and horse-tails flourished in moist climate. There were still no flowering plants.
DINOSAURS Giant-sized plant eating dinosaurs appeared which fed on the lush vegetation. Large meat eaters lived at this time, too.
OTHER ANIMALS The first birds appeared but pterosaurs ruled the skies. The ancestors of present day bees and flies buzzed through the air, while ichthyosaurs, plesiosaurs, fish and mollusks lived in the sea.

Cretaceous Period (144- 65 Million year ago)

LAND The continents reached their present day positions and mountains ranges were formed where plates pushed into each other.
CLIMATE The temperature continued to cool down. There were wet and dry seasons,which gradually changed into summer and winter season.
PLANTS The first flowering plant appeared. They spread quickly and became the main type of ground-covering plants. Oak, maple, walnut, and beech tree grew alongside the still abundant conifers, cycads and ferns.
DINOSAURS Herds of small plant eating dinosaurs roamed across open countryside, preyed upon by dinosaurs developed body protective covering to protect themselves from attacks.
OTHER ANIMALS Snakes and small mammals appeared on land, crocodiles lived in fresh water pools and huge reptiles flew through the skies as did many kinds of birds and the first moths. Giant turtles and lizards-like animals in seas, feeding on the plentiful supplies of fish and mollusks.


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