resembling nothing that has ever been
seen or heard-of upon earth, excepting
the dragons of romance and heraldry.”
Headlines of the time celebrated Anning
and her “flying dragon”.
5 An unpublished painting of the pterosaur made
that same year (and one of the first pterosaur reconstructions) pictured it in the
style of an historical dragon or basilisk.
Mary Anning’s flying dragon, eventually assigned the name Dimorphodon
macronyx, was purchased by the British
Museum (Natural History) in 1835.7 It
remains in the museum collection,
though it is no longer on view.
One of Thomas Hawkins’ sea
dragons, acquired by the museum in
1848, had been artfully and appropriately renamed Thalassiodracon
hawkinsii (Greek for Sea Dragon of Hawkins),
and can be viewed in the Fossil Marine
Reptiles gallery in the British Museum.
An ichthyosaur specimen (Ichthyosaurus
communis) purchased from Hawkins
by the British Museum in 1838 is also
displayed, stamped with the abbreviation HAWK. SEA-DRAG.
The British Museum of Natural
History was established by Sir Richard
Owen, a naturalist who coined many
new scientific names (including the
above Thalassiodracon hawkinsii in
1840). Sir Richard came up with the
name dinosaur (‘great or terrible lizard’)
in 1841 to cover the novel fossil reptiles
that were being found in his time.
Technically this category did not include
plesiosaurs, ichthyosaurs, or pterosaurs.
Nonetheless the term dinosaur came to
popularly include almost every beast
that had formerly been identified under
the title of ‘dragon’.
The fact that these fossil finds were
quite readily identified as dragons at
the time of their discovery, and that
people around the world retain cultural
memories of when their ancestors knew
‘dragons’, stands in stark contrast to
the evolutionary belief that such beasts
(under a new name) all became extinct
well before any human existed. Yet it
affirms the reality of the Bible’s history,
that every group of creatures, living or
extinct, was created within the same six
real days as the first human couple and
lived alongside human beings.
What’s in a name? Is a dragon by any
other name still a dragon? If so, there
are dragons in the British Museum.
References and notes
1. Hawkins, T., The Book of the Great Sea-Dragons, Ichthyosauri and Plesiosauri,
William Pickering, London 1840.
2. Hawkins, T., Memoirs of Ichthyosauri and
Plesiosauri, Relfe and Fletcher, London, p.
3. Mc Gowan, C., The Dragon Seekers: How
an extraordinary circle of fossils discovered
the dinosaurs and paved the way for
Darwin, Perseus Publishing, Cambridge,
4. Transactions of the Geological Society
(February 1829), in Emling, S., The Fossil
Hunter, Palgrave Macmillan, New York,
5. American Museum of Natural History,
Happy Birthday Mary Anning! (2014);
6. Martill, D.M., Dimorphodon and the
Reverend George Howman’s noctivageous
flying dragon: the earliest restoration of a
pterosaur in its natural habitat, Proc. Geol.
Assoc. 125(1):120–130, 2014 | doi: 10.1016/j.
7. Martill, ref. 6.
8. Emling, S., The Fossil Hunter, Palgrave
Macmillan, New York, 2009.
9. Nelson, V., Dire Dragons, Untold Secrets
of Planet Earth Publishing Company, Red
Deer, Alberta, Canada, 2011.
Mary Anning (1799–1847)
A devout Christian, Mary spent her
entire life collecting and dealing in fossils
she excavated from the cliffs along the
English Channel at Lyme Regis in SW
England. She was the inspiration for the
tongue-twisting rhyme commencing
‘She sells sea-shells by the sea-shore’.
Despite rarely being given credit for
her finds at the time, in 2010 she was
recognized as one of the top ten British
women who have most influenced
Mary’s many important findings
(see main text) contributed to our
understanding of ancient marine life—
undoubtedly deposited at the time of
Noah’s Flood, though unfortunately
history has claimed her as a champion
This portrait of her and her faithful dog Tray
hangs in the Natural History Museum, London.
For more on her fascinating life, see creation.