Prehistoric Animals


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Paris museum

Paris Museum of Natural History

The Institute of Paleontology, an integral part of the National Museum of Natural History, is located in the beautiful setting of the Jardin des Plantes in Paris. The museum houses the comparative anatomy collection of the famous zoologist Baron Georges Cuvier (1769-1832), as well as a collection of specimens discovered around the world. There are many dinosaur skeletons from France, Africa and Southeast Asia. Many of the Triassic dinosaurs present at the museum have been found in France, such as the Plateosaurus prosauropods (discovered in Saint-Lothan) as well as another unknown prosauropod discovered in Alzon, but also others brought back from Morocco, including specimens of Azendohsaurus. From 1955 to 1959, Dr. L. Ginsberg and Dr. F. and P. Ellenberger conducted several expeditions to southern Africa, to Lesotho, from where they brought back specimens of the great Euskelosaurus prosauropod and the lower jaw of an ornithischian, the Fabrosaurus, from the Maphutseng Valley. The Jurassic Dinosaur Collection also includes local species. A theropod, Poekilopleuron bucklandii, now exists only as a cast, as its bones, first studied in 1838, were destroyed during the Second World War. The skull of a theropod, Piveteausaurus, was found in Calvados and the incomplete skeleton of the sauropod Bothriospondylus is from Damparis. Baron Cuvier described the bones of a reptile from Honfleur. He thought at first that it was a large crocodile, but it was later identified as a theropod and named Streptospondylus cuvieri. The most complete Jurassic dinosaur found in France is a small theropod, the Compsognathus corallestris from the Canjuers region. In the museum, there are also large bones of sauropods dating from Jurassic and discovered in Africa and Madagascar. In 1940-1941, Dr. A. de Lapparent discovered Cetiosaurus in El-Mers, Morocco, and in 1962 Dr. L. Ginsberg found Lapparentosaurus and Bothriospondylus at the Kamoro Malagasy site. The Cretaceous dinosaurs are little known as the only information we have are from isolated bones. The collection of the Paris museum includes a theropod discovered in Bevons, the Genusaurus, a jaw of hadrosaur from Saint-Martory as well as specimens collected by Dr. A. de Lapparent in 1939 in the deposits of the Upper Cretaceous Fox Amphoux. Among them are parts of a nodosaurid, the bones of a sauropod titanosaurus, those of a hypsilophodon, and theropod teeth and bones. Unfortunately, the beginning of the Second World War was to mark the end of research on this site.

We also found dinosaur eggs in the Bouches-du-Rhône. The institute has a fine collection of African Cretaceous dinosaurs. In 1950, Dr. Lavocat discovered in Kem-Kem in Morocco the bones and teeth of a giant theropod, Carcharodontosaurus. In 1955, the skull of this same dinosaur was found by the team of Paul Sereno from the University of Chicago. Also in Morocco, Lavocat found the bones of a sauropod, the Rebbachisaurus, while Dr. Philippe Taquet directed, from 1966 to 1972, important excavations in Niger and discovered the almost complete skeleton of iguanodontid Ouranosaurus. The museum has only one molding, the original remained in the National Museum of Niger. This expedition also reported a dryosaurid femur, the Valdosaurus, and the bones of the spiny theropod, Spinosaurus. The collection also consists of the first dinosaurs found in the Cretaceous sites of Madagascar, including the bones of the sauropod Titanosaurus madagascarensis, and the piece of a curious skull first attributed to a pachycephalosaurus. In 1998, the complete skull of this dinosaur, Majungatholus, was unearthed by Dr. Scott Sampson and his team. It appeared then that this dinosaur was an abelisaurid theropod comparable to the Carnotaurus. In recent years, Dr. Taquet has conducted several expeditions to Laos and Cambodia on sites discovered in 1940 by the French geologist J. Hoffet. There he discovered new sauropods, theropods and hadrosaurs that are still waiting to be studied. The institute also has a skeleton of Edmontosaurus and the skull of a Triceratops purchased in 1911 from Canadian fossil hunter Charles Sternberg.

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