Extinct Monsters HTML version

“The possibilities of existence run so deeply into the extravagant that there is
scarcely any conception too extraordinary for Nature to realise.”—Agassiz.
I have been requested by my friend Mr. Hutchinson, to express my opinion upon the
series of drawings which have been prepared by that excellent artist of animals, Mr.
Smit, for this little book entitled “Extinct Monsters.”
Many of the stories told in early days, of Giants and Dragons, may have originated in
the discovery of the limb-bones of the Mammoth, the Rhinoceros, or other large
animals, in caves, associated with heaps of broken fragments, in which latter the
ignorant peasant saw in fancy the remains of the victims devoured at the monster’s
In Louis Figuier’s World before the Deluge we are favoured with several highly
sensational views of extinct monsters; whilst the pen of Dr. Kinns has furnished
valuable information as to the “slimy” nature of their blood!
The late Mr. G. Waterhouse Hawkins (formerly a lithograph ic artist) was for years
occupied in unauthorised restorations of various Secondary reptiles and Tertiary
mammals, and about 1853 he received encouragement
from Professor Owen to undertake the restorations of extinct animals which still
adorn the lower grounds of the Crystal Palace at Sydenham.
But the discoveries of later years have shown that the Dicynodon and
Labyrinthodon, instead of being toad-like in form, were lacertilian or salamander -
like reptiles, with elongated bodies and moderately long tails; that the Iguanodon
did not usually stand upon “all-fours,” but more frequently sat up like some huge
kangaroo with short fore limbs; that the horn on its snout was really on its wrist;
that the Megalosaurus, with a more slender form of skeleton, had a somewhat
similar erect attitude, and the habit, perhaps, of springing upon its prey, holding it
with its powerful clawed hands, and tearing it with its formidable carnivorous teeth.
Although the Bernissart Iguanodon has been to us a complete revelation of what a
Dinosaur really looked like, it is to America, and chiefly to the discoveries of Marsh,
that we owe the knowledge of a whole series of new reptiles and mammals, many of
which will be found illustrated within these pages.
Of long and short-tailed Pterodactyles we now know almost complete skeletons and
details of their patagia or flying membranes. The discovery of the long -tailed
feathered bird with teeth—the Archæopteryx, from the Oolite of Solenhofen, is
another marvellous addition to our knowledge; whilst Marsh’s great Hesperornis, a
wingless diving bird with teeth, and his flying toothed bird, the Ichthyornis dispar,
are to us equally surprising.
Certainly, both in singular forms of fossil reptilia and in early mammals, North
America carries off the palm.
Of these the most remarkable are Marsh’s Stegosaurus,