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Iguanodon Teeth – Natural History Museum, London

Iguanodon Teeth - Natural History Museum, London - Joy of Museums

Iguanodon Teeth

These first Iguanodon Teeth ever found triggered the discovery of dinosaurs. Mary Mantell found the teeth in 1822 as she pulled at rock fragments by the side of the road in Sussex. 

Her husband Gideon, an amateur paleontologist, noticed they were similar to modern iguana teeth, but ten times larger. He suggested they belonged to a colossal ancient herbivorous lizard named Iguanodon.

Until the discovery of these teeth, no equivalent giant herbivorous reptiles had been found. At first, Gideon struggled to be heard by the scientific establishment and have his ideas accepted. 

Mantell, however, didn’t give up, and as he found more teeth and bones, he eventually convinced the experts of his theory.

Over the next 20 years, more giant fossils were found. In 1842, anatomist Richard Owen, the Natural History Museums’s first superintendent, announced a new name for the land-dwelling reptile fossils, the Dinosauria, or terrible lizards.

This name grabbed the headlines and started the search and discovery of more dinosaurs.


Iguanodon, meaning “iguana-tooth,” is a dinosaur that existed from the mid-Jurassic to the late Cretaceous.

Distinctive features include large thumb spikes, which were possibly used for defense against predators, combined with long fifth fingers to forage for food.

Named in 1825 by English geologist Gideon Mantell, Iguanodon was the second type of dinosaur formally named based on fossil specimens. 

As one of the first scientifically well-known dinosaurs, Iguanodon has occupied a notable place in the understanding of dinosaurs.

Gideon Mantell

Gideon Mantell  (1790 – 1852) was an English obstetrician, geologist, and paleontologist. His attempts to reconstruct the structure and life of Iguanodon began the scientific study of dinosaurs.

In 1822 he was responsible for the eventual identification of the first fossil teeth, and later much of the skeleton of Iguanodon.

Richard Owen

Sir Richard Owen (1804 – 1892) was an English biologist, comparative anatomist, and paleontologist.

Despite being a controversial figure, he is best remembered today for coining the word Dinosauria, meaning “Terrible Reptile” or “Fearfully Great Reptile.”

Owen also campaigned for the natural specimens in the British Museum to be given a new home.

This lobbying resulted in the establishment, in 1881, of the Natural History Museum in South Kensington, London. 

His later career was tainted by controversies, many of which involved accusations that he took credit for other people’s work.

Iguanodon Teeth

  • Title:              Iguanodon Teeth
  • Date:            141 to 137 million years old
  • Discovered:  1822 in Sussex, England
  • Museum:      Natural History Museum, London

Iguanodon tooth

A Tour of the Natural History Museum, London

Iguana Tooth – Iguanodon

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“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”
– Albert Einstein


Photo Credit: 1) JOM

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