Neave Parker's 1960s reconstruction of Megalosaurus

What's wrong with these dinosaurs?

The following dinosaur reconstructions were published in the 1960s in Museum guides.

Fossil evidence and investigations from the past 50 years have revealed some scientific inaccuracies. Can you spot what's wrong?

Created by the talented artist Neave Parker, based on fossil remains and the scientific expertise of palaeontologist William Elgin Swinton, the drawings stimulated popular interest in prehistoric life.

Parker's reconstructions were initially believed to be accurate. But as our scientific knowledge of the biology, morphology and behaviour of these dinosaurs has increased, their perceived appearance has changed.

Palaeoart images of dinosaurs are only ever as accurate as the fossil evidence available.

Despite the anatomical errors and other inaccuracies, Parker's illustrations are so beautiful and detailed that they remain favourites among dinosaur fans and experts alike.

Neave Parker's 1960s reconstruction of Iguanodon

Iguanodon

Not only do palaeoartists have to reconstruct a dinosaur's appearance, they also need to understand how it would have stood and moved.

Here, Parker has positioned Iguanodon standing upright in a kangaroo-like pose. However, we now know that this dinosaur walked on all fours. The animal's spine would have been horizontal and the tail would have lifted off the ground.

Modern reconstructions are also much slimmer and lack the big throat pouch.

Neave Parker's 1960s reconstruction of Cetiosaurus

The eagle-eyed among you may spot an apparent fifth limb in Parker's depiction of Cetiosaurus.
 

Cetiosaurus

Cetiosaurus was the first sauropod dinosaur to be discovered, although it wasn't initially recognised as such. Fossilised remains were unearthed in England and described by Richard Owen in 1842.

Parker shows Cetiosaurus as a semi-aquatic dinosaur. Although its long neck and tail are correctly drawn here, scientists now believe that, like other sauropods such as Diplodocus and Brachiosaurus, Cetiosaurus lived on land and held its tail in the air, rather than dragging it along the floor.

Many scientists in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries considered sauropods to be much too large to fully support their weight on land and so showed them at least partially submerged in water. However, studies have since shown that their air-filled bones and small feet would not have been suited to a life in water.

Neave Parker's 1960s reconstruction of Hypsilophodon

Hypsilophodon

Swinton believed Hypsilophodon could climb with ease and probably lived in trees. Parker reflects this in his illustration.

Following recent studies of the dinosaur's musculo-skeletal structure, this opinion is now universally regarded as incorrect. Hypsilophodon is now known to have used its two hind legs to run quickly on the ground.

Neave Parker's 1960s reconstruction of Scelidosaurus

Scelidosaurus

The armour-plated Scelidosaurus is one of the best-known dinosaurs of the British Isles. A more complete representation of its skeleton has been unearthed than any other.

Although Parker included some armour in his reconstruction, Scelidosaurus also had armour extending onto its head and legs.

Additionally, the dinosaur's tail and the trunk of its body should be longer.

Neave Parker's 1960s reconstruction of Scleromochlus

Scleromochlus

Parker based his creative reconstruction of Scleromochlus on a partial skeleton found in Scotland. At the time Swinton thought it was a theropod dinosaur, like Tyrannosaurus rex.

However, although this extinct animal roamed the Earth 200 million years ago, Scleromochlus was not a dinosaur. It is now thought to be closely related to the flying reptiles, pterosaurs.

See Neave Parker's original illustrations

Original artworks by Neave Parker, including the six shown here, are on display in the Museum's Images of Nature gallery until 29 June 2017. They are part of the free exhibition, The Art of British Natural History.

Art of British Natural History

Enjoy a free exhibition of artwork celebrating Britain's diverse wildlife.