Iguanodon was one of the first dinosaurs ever discovered. Since we’ve known about this animal since the 1800’s, it would make sense that this creature has gone through some scientific revisions through the years. When people first discovered dinosaurs, they had no idea what to make of them. Not only were the first remains rather fragmentary, but nothing like these creatures exist today. So, scientists at the time went with their best guess with the knowledge they had at the time, big honkin’ lizards!
At the time, this really was the best representation we had for this animal. It’s a lot more lizard-y than what we see dinosaurs as today, but what would your best guess be with fragmentary material and no reference points. The horn we now know belongs on the hand instead of the snout, but I will admit it is an irresistible image. Modern dinosaur fans may laugh and scoff at this reconstruction, but you have to admit these old dinosaur reconstructions are beautiful artistically. In fact, they look better than a lot of the models we have today.
However, Iguanodon was also the first dinosaur scientist have ever found a complete skeleton of. Not long after the above reconstructions of the dinosaur was accepted (a couple decades anyway), complete skeletons were discovered.
These beautiful finds took the scientific community by storm, and a new reconstruction was issued for Iguanodon. So, how did they set it up?
Like a kangaroo. Naturally.
Iguanodon was interpreted as a fully bipedal animal. We know think that this dinosaur was mostly if not exclusively quadrupedal, but this tripod like image remained for nearly a century. You would think one clue about the true stance would be that museum workers would have to break the tail bones to get a posture like the one above (dinosaur tails are very stiff).
So, for the mean time, we had images like this.
You can see how this dinosaur was an inspiration for Godzilla.
The last photo in that lot was from the 80’s, so you can see just how long this image endured. it wasn’t until a little later that scientists started to think that the dinosaur was too heavy to retain such a pose, not to mention the impossibility of a dragging lizard like tail for any dinosaur really. But people still liked the tripodal pose, so it was kept alive for as long as it could.
Well, they’re on the right track, but still aren’t quite there. These reconstructions walk streamline, but keep their fore arms tucked in like a boxer. At this point, popular dinosaur books would continue to claim that these dinosaurs were mostly bipedal but would walk on all fours from time to time when grazing. Really, it’s the other way around.
I think the first time I saw a completely four legged Iguanodon was surprisingly in the Disney movie Dinosaur (read my entry on it for my full thoughts on it). Despite the Iguanodon’s having lips…
Something I’m still not quite ready to forgive…
…they are surprisingly accurate. They are depicted very body heavy, so it looks natural that they would remain on all fours. Even in one scene when Aladar (pictured) goes up on his hind legs for one second and immediately drops down, it looks like he wouldn’t be able to keep that pose for long. And when he does run, it’s not on two legs like many books at the time depicted, but on all fours, moving kind of like a horse. So congratulations Disney, you got something right.
Modern depictions of the dinosaur paint it as an almost exclusively four legged animal. Use of it’s thumb spike as a weapon is optional.
The image is kind of irresistible.
Looking back at this creature, it’s amazing to see how far dinosaur science has come and just how different we view these creatures today. Sure, some of the old tropes are pretty sweet…
Anyone else a bit sad we can’t go back in time and see this?
…new discoveries are even sweeter. Keep on trekkin’, Iguanodon, let’s see what you look like in another 100 years.
Next time, join me as we embark one of the very first dinosaur blockbusters, The Lost World.
Don’t worry, they look better than this.