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Temporal range: Early Cretaceous
Ornithopsis hulkei lectotype.jpeg
Lectotype vertebra BMNH R28632
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Clade: Dinosauria
Order: Saurischia
Suborder: Sauropodomorpha
Clade: Neosauropoda
Clade: Macronaria
Clade: Titanosauriformes
Genus: Ornithopsis
Seeley, 1870
Type species
Ornithopsis hulkei
Seeley, 1870
  • O. hulkei (type)
  •  ?O. leedsi

Ornithopsis (meaning "bird-likeness") was a medium-sized Early Cretaceous sauropod dinosaur, from England.

History of discovery[edit]

Lectotype dorsal vertebra in anterior view, as illustrated in 1875

The type species, Ornithopsis hulkei, was named and described by Harry Govier Seeley in 1870. The type consisted of two dorsal vertebrae: BMNH R2239 found in East Sussex and BMNH R28632 found on Wight in the Wessex Formation dating from the Barremian. The genus name is derived from Greek ὄρνις (ornis), "bird", en ὄψις (opsis), "face" or "likeness", a reference to the fact that Seeley considered the animal to be an intermediate form bridging the gap between pterosaurs, birds and dinosaurs. The specific name honours John Whitaker Hulke.[1]

Seeley's creation of the genus was, however, not accepted by Richard Owen, who rejected the evolutionary interpretation of the material. Disregarding priority, he therefore in 1875 split it, naming the one vertebra, BMNH R2239, that he had in 1841 described as the quadrate of Iguanodon, Bothriospondylus elongatus, the other, BMNH R28632, Bothriospondylus magnus.

As a result of the split both vertebrae now went their separate nomenclatural way. BMNH R28632 was in 1876 by Owen made the type of Chondrosteosaurus magnus.[2][3]

BMNH R28632 was in 1882 by Hulke referred to Ornithopsis eucamerotus.[4] However, in 1995 William Blows made it the lectotype of Ornithopis hulkei. Blows also excluded BMNH R2239 from Ornithopsis as being of a clearly different type.[5]

In 1882 Hulke named a Ornithopsis eucamerotus based on BMNH R97, a set of pelvis bones found by William D. Fox. Blows in 1995 removed O. eucamerotus from Ornithopisis, classifying it as Brachiosauridae incertae sedis.

In 1887 a third species nova was created for Ornithopsis when Hulke named Ornithopsis leedsii based on BMNH R1985-1988, vertebrae and partial remains of a pelvis found by Alfred Nicholson Leeds near Peterborough.[6] Specimen BMNH R1984, some vertebrae, would later be often associated with these syntypes but belong to a different individual.[7] This species would be renamed Cetiosaurus leedsi and later Cetiosauriscus leedsii, both today seen as incorrect identifications.

It also happened that already existing species were renamed into species of Ornithopsis. In 1888 Lydekker renamed "Ischyrosaurus" manseli Hulke 1874 (BMNH 41626) into a Ornithopsis manseli and Cetiosaurus humerocristatus Hulke 1874 (BMNH 44635) into a Ornithopsis humerocristatus. Friedrich von Huene in 1922 renamed Bothriospondylus suffossus into a Ornithopsis suffossa and Cetiosaurus greppini into a Ornithopsis greppini. In 1929 he renamed Pelorosaurus conybearei into Ornithopsis conybeari, which however violates the priority of the earlier named Pelorosaurus. All these names are today considered nomina vana, failed new names, or incorrect identifications.

Other remains have been referred to Ornithopsis hulkei; today this is only the case for the badly eroded type specimen, of which basically only the centrum remains lacking the neural spine. The vertebra is heavily pneumatised, filled with large cavities, camellae. It is narrow, tall, has a ridge on the underside, is opisthocoelous and has a posteriorly placed deep subtriangular pleurocoel over two thirds of its length. These features are compatible with a placement within the Titanosauriformes.


Referred vertebrae

Ornithopsis is currently restricted to the type species, O. hulkei and the possible second species, O. leedsi, being a nomen dubium and safely referable to Titanosauriformes incertae sedis.

  • O. hulkei Seeley 1870 (type)
  • O. eucamerotus Hulke 1882 - nomen dubium
  • O. leedsii Hulke 1887 = Pelorosaurus leedsi (Hulke 1887) Lydekker 1888 = Cetiosaurus leedsi (Hulke 1887) Woodward 1905 = Cetiosauriscus leedsii (Hulke 1887) von Huene 1927 - requires its own genus within Brachiosauridae

Misassigned species[edit]

  • O. humerocristatus (Hulke 1874) Lydekker 1888 - nomen dubium = Cetiosaurus humerocristatus Hulke, 1874 = Duriatitan humerocristatus
  • O. manseli (Hulke 1874) Lydekker 1888 - nomen dubium = "Ischyrosaurus" manseli Hulke vide Lydekker 1888
  • O. conybearei (Melville 1849) von Huene 1929 - nomen dubium = "Cetiosaurus" conybeari Melville 1849 = Cetiosaurus brevis Owen 1842 = Pelorosaurus brevis (Owen 1842) von Huene 1927 = Pelorosaurus conybearei (Melville 1849) Mantell 1850
  • O. suffossa (Owen 1875) von Huene 1922 = Bothriospondylus suffossus Owen 1875
  • O. greppini von Huene 1922 = Cetiosauriscus greppini (von Huene 1922) von Huene 1929 = "Ischyrosaurus" greppini (von Huene 1922) - requires its own genus in Eusauropoda


  1. ^ Seeley, H.G., 1870, "Ornithopsis, a gigantic animal of the Pterodacyle kind from the Wealden", Annals and Magazine of Natural History, 4th series 4(5): 305-318
  2. ^ Owen, R. 1876. "Monograph on the fossil Reptilia of the Wealden and Purbeck Formations. Supplement 7. Crocodilia (Poikilopleuron) and Dinosauria? (Chondrosteosaurus)", Palaeontographical Society Monographs 30 : 1-7
  3. ^ Hulke, J. W. (1879). "Note (3rd) on (Eucamerotus, Hulke) Ornithopsis, H. G. Seeley, = Bothrospondylus magnus, Owen, = Chondrosteous magnus, Owen". Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society. 35: 752–762. doi:10.1144/GSL.JGS.1879.035.01-04.55. 
  4. ^ Hulke, J. W. (1882). "Note on the Os Pubis and Ischium of Ornithopsis eucamerotus". Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society. 38: 372–376. doi:10.1144/GSL.JGS.1882.038.01-04.41. 
  5. ^ Blows, W.T. (1995). "The Early Cretaceous brachiosaurid dinosaurs Ornithopsis and Eucamerotus from the Isle of Wight, England" (PDF). Palaeontology. 38 (1): 187–197. 
  6. ^ Hulke, J.W. (1887). "Note on some Dinosaurian Remains in the Collection of A. Leeds, Esq. Part I. Ornithopsis leedsii, nov. sp, from the Kimmeridge Clay of Northamptonshire". Geological Magazine. 4 (8): 375–376. doi:10.1017/S0016756800194014. 
  7. ^ Noè, L.F., Liston, J.J., and Sandra D. Chapman, 2010, "'Old bones, dry subject': the dinosaurs and pterosaur collected by Alfred Nicholson Leeds of Peterborough, England". In: Moody, R.T.J., Buffetaut, E., Naish, D.W. and Martill, D.M. (eds.) Dinosaurs and Other Extinct Saurians: a Historical Perspective. Series: Geological Society Special Publication (343). The Geological Society, pp. 49-77
  • Upchurch, P., Mannion, P. D. & Barrett, P. M. 2011. Sauropod dinosaurs. In Batten, D. J. (ed.) English Wealden Fossils. The Palaeontological Association (London), pp. 476-525.
  • Upchurch, P. & Martin, J. 2003. The anatomy and taxonomy of Cetiosaurus (Saurischia, Sauropoda) from the Middle Jurassic of England. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 23, 208–231.

External links[edit]