The First Dinosaur Fossil ... Looked Like A Ballsack

It seems like dinosaurs have been around forever, and that's technically pretty true, but no one had ever seen part of one until triangle hat times. The first dinosaur fossil was found in a British limestone quarry in 1676 and handed over to the University of Oxford, where Professor Robert Plot identified it as some kind of thigh bone. He wasn't sure from what, though, as it was larger than the bones of any animal known at that time. Obviously, he decided, it must be the bone of a giant from Biblical times. He also thought fossils of ancient mollusks were just streams of frozen pee, so who knows what that guy's deal was.

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Skip forward about a century, and along came 18th-century doctor Richard Brookes, who took a look at Plot's drawings of his giant fossil and said, "Well, I don't know about that, but I do know that looks like a ballsack right there" and named the fossil Scrotum humanum. He wasn't wrong, gang:

(Robert Plot/Wikimedia Commons)
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Brookes was almost certainly just having what passes for a laugh to scientists, but for a lot of boring reasons having to do with the timing of decisions in the taxonomical community, it became the first official dinosaur name. Its tastelessness became the subject of various appeals to the incredible dorks that must populate the International Commission for Zoological Nomenclature, who must hate fun because they struck down any attempt to properly immortalize the Scrotum humanum. Although, to be fair, no one is totally sure which species it even was. They're pretty sure it was a Megalosaurus, but someone lost the ancient dinosaur ballsack, so we can't confirm. At least there's a clear villain in this story.

Top image: David Monniaux/Wikimedia Commons

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