London Natural History Museum: Iguanodon, The Veggie Beast!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010
By Student Group

The 9th grade biology students recently traveled to London for a week-long field trip to many historical sites.  The students spent three hours exploring the Natural History Museum.  The following is the eighth in a series of posts written by the students to discuss what they learned.

Iguanodon; Photo source: Thomas Guest

by Andrea, Cartland, and Noa

The Museum of Natural History was definitely a highlight of our trip! It was so big and had many exhibits.  So many that we didn’t even have time to see all of them. The first thing we did when we got there was meet scientist Dr. Ng, who accompanied us to the exhibit known as the Darwin Cocoon. This exhibit is known as a Cocoon because of its shape; it’s a huge exhibit that wraps around a lab that real scientists use to do research (hence the name cocoon, it’s in the shape of a cocoon). As you go down in a circle, you can do interactive activities (using touch screens), such as a particular one we enjoyed where you are asked to pack for a trip to Switzerland to do research on bugs, and you choose what are the best materials to use. It was a very fun exhibit and it was interesting to listen to these scientists in the videos talk to you about interesting topics such as malaria and mosquitoes.

Walking through the Darwin Centre

One of the topics we learned about was how to take an unknown bug, and put a name to it. It was very interesting, what you would do is get the shape of the bug, and you look at a bunch of other bugs and try to match that shape, with the ones they give you. We worked together to find the shape and then compare the DNA of both bugs. As we found a match, we also found ourselves learning new things about DNA and how they use it for this type of research. As you see everything featured in the exhibit, you walk around in a circular motion around the base. One of the best  parts of the cocoon has to be this feature where in the beginning you take this little card that you can scan after every activity and all the information goes onto this card that will be sent to your email! You don’t have to take notes, nor do you have to memorize anything. All the information gets sent right to you!

We’re so glad that we got to explore the dinosaur exhibit; we really had a great time. First, we went on a wooden bridge. There were models of dinosaurs that stood on the sides of the bridge. We also found a specific dinosaur that we are going to talk about in the selection of dinosaurs that were featured in the exhibit. After we went off the bridge, we went to an area which was really dark, and then we saw a huge dinosaur model which can actually move! It was like a real dinosaur, its roar was also vivid, too. At the next section, which was a whole system of information of how dinosaurs looked and how they lived. One of the interesting things we learned was that Edmontosaurus had up to 1000 teeth arranged in dental batteries that are used for grinding vegetation. Dental batteries are a series of teeth stacked one upon the other so that if one was lost it could be replaced.   We also saw the fossils of a dinosaur’s head and the fingers. Looking at this information and fossils we can even imagine that back then in time, there were no human beings, and the largest animal were dinosaurs. They controlled the land.

There were so many dinosaurs in the exhibit, so we could really only focus on one. The dinosaur that we found a lot of information on was the Iguanodon. It was a very popular dinosaur in the exhibit – probably because the dinosaur tended to live in modern day England, Belgium, Germany, northern Africa, and even parts of America. The Iguanodon was a very big vegetarian dinosaur and lived during the Cretaceous period. The Iguanodon was sixteen feet tall and could be anywhere from 20-33 feet long. They could also end up weighing up to five tons (they had a lot of muscle to help move their heavy bodies). Most dinosaurs didn’t die of old age (the Iguanodon’s life expectancy was about 70-130 years), but were usually eaten by a predator. To defend itself, the Iguanodon had a large thumb on its hand called a thumb spike. The Iguanodon used the thumb spike to defend itself when it was being attacked by a predator (It would jab the other dinosaurs with it). Its three middle fingers were strong and hoof-like and ideal for just walking and its fifth finger was flexible and especially good for handling its food (good for grabbing plants). It used all for of its legs while walking and then used its stronger hind legs for running or reaching up to high places, which was also good for its diet since they had to reach high plants or vegetables at times.

It also had a very long tail, which would counterbalance the dinosaur’s stance for when it wanted to walk on two legs. This is called “improved stance”, which means to be able to walk on 2 or 4 legs. Their feet also broke and healed slightly out of line because they had roughened bulge halfway down their hip bones. Another thing about their diet is that they needed powerful grinding teeth too, to eat those vegetables and plants since they’re at times quite hard to chew. Mantell, the scientist who discovered the dinosaur, found that its tooth was very similar to that of an iguana’s – hence the name, Iguanodon. Another great discover that had to do with the Iguanodon was the Maidstone slab, which was found in 1834. This slab contains fossilized Iguanodon bones, and was used to study dinosaurs-it was one of the first opportunities to get a good view of what the Iguanodon looked like.


Why do you think all these Iguanodon bones were found on this slab of stone? Just like modern day animals, dinosaurs evolved over time due to natural selection. How and why did the Iguanodon change and how was it different?



    Wonderful Post Andrea, Cartland, and Noa! I too have seen this exhibit and thought it was just phenomenal to see all of these beautiful creatures that once roamed our world. I have done a little bit of research on the Igaunodon. I knew alot about the Igaunodon before this from movies, books, etc. But i learned that its thumbs were not only used to get food and climb, but to hurt predators to leave it alone. It’s thumb is as hard as a bone and as sharp as a knife and, when a carnivore would attack it, the Igaunodon would jab it’s thumb into the predators neck causing it to flee. I also learned that the Igaunodon was very smart for a dinosaur, thats why it knows all of the tactics of survival. I am just so intrigued by dinosaurs, Excellent post you guys!

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