Hadrosaurus Foulkii

Hadrosaurus Foulkii Tyrannosaurus Rex, Stegosaurus, Triceratops and the Hadrosaurus Foulkii. To most people, those first few dinosaur names sound quite familiar. However, the last one might seem a bit foreign. What if I told you that the Hadrosaurus Foulki represents some of the most important milestones in paleontology history? More surprisingly, what if I also told you that this hundred million year old creature was found right here in South Jersey? More than a hundred years ago, strange fossils were stumbled upon a farm in Haddonfield which began the unearthing of a prehistoric monster.

In the year 1838, John Estaugh Hopkins was selling marl to farmers in the Haddonfield neighborhood. One of the workmen digging in the marl pit came upon several strange fossils. To Mr. Hopkins, these strange, black, exceedingly heavy objects were merely souvenirs to be distributed to his friends and shortly forgotten.

Twenty years later in 1858, William Parker Foulke, a member of the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, was on vacation in Haddonfield. He got hold of a story about some mysterious dug up fossils on a nearby farm. Foulke immediately got permission to bring in other scientists to dig up any part of Hopkin’s land and to take whatever fossils thus procured. At the depth of about ten feet, the workmen came upon a jumbled pile of approximately thirty five heavy bones.

Upon this discovery, Mr. Foulke knew to notify Dr. Joseph Leidy, a curator at the Academy. Recognizing the scientific value of the fossils, Leidy justified further exploration. After an intense examination of a complete collection of front and hind limbs, a pelvis, part of a foot, twenty eight vertebrae, eight teeth and two jaw fragments, many elements became clear. First, this was most certainly a dinosaur and the first full skeleton of a dinosaur known at the time. Also, many of its features indicated a series of distinct aspects. Dr. Leidy stated that the bones were those of a huge herbivorous saurian. The animal was closely allied to the great extinct Iquanodon, for its teeth and the bone of its hip bore resemblance to the English dinosaur. The genus was, however, different, and for it the name Hadrosaurus was proposed. In honor of Dr. Foulke’s laborious contribution to history and science, the full name was announced “Hadrosaurus Foulkii”, meaning “Foulke’s bulky lizard”

The Hadrosaurus Foulkii was most likely amphibious, and though its remains were obtained from a marine deposit, their rarity caused scientists to assume that they had been carried down the current of a river upon whose banks the animal lived. Analysis of the dinosaur’s hind and fore limbs led Leidy to propose that the creature was bipedal. The recovered bones indicated that the creature was twenty-five feet long, twelve to fifteen feet high and weighed an estimated 2.5 tons.

Not only is the Hadrosaurus Foulkii the first nearly whole dinosaur fossil found, in 1868 it became the first fully mounted dinosaur in the world. With the help of British sculptor Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins, the Hadrosaurus Foulkii was successfully constructed and proudly stands inside the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia. Located at the corner of 19th street and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia, one can easily visit this famous attraction as well as several other marvelous exhibits. For more information, go to the Academy’s website at www.ansp.org, or call them at 215-299-1000.

In addition to its display at the Academy, the town of Haddonfield consists of several other possible locations that commemorate this finding. Right in the center of downtown Haddonfield there is a bronze sculpture of the Hadrosaurus Foulkii, which celebrated its one year anniversary in 2004. For a more surreal experience, head on over to the excavation site right at the end of Maple Avenue. There lies a stone mounted memorial and a plaque that declares the site a national historic landmark. If you’re really hands on, explore the narrow ravine in which the fossils were uncovered. Wind your way through the grass and shrubs and who knows; perhaps you’ll come across some leftover fragments. Mr. Foulke and his accomplices would surely be proud.

Updated 1/4/09

For more South Jersey History, visit our South Jersey History page.

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