30. Leaping Dryptosaurs, 1898


Edward D. Cope had originally conceived of the American carnivore Laelaps as a fairly sedentary, if bipedal, predator (see item 11), but in his later years he began to envision carnivorous dinosaurs as capable of leaping through the air. Shortly before his death in 1897, he engaged Charles Knight to construct models of some of his dinosaur discoveries, and one of these was a marvelous realization of Cope's thoughts on active dinosaurs. Since the name Laelaps had been ruled invalid, due to prior use, the cavorting carnivores were now called Dryptosaurus.

This picture was one of the earliest Knight reconstructions to appear in print. It was part of a short article by Henry F. Osborn that also included images of three other Knight models. All four restorations can be seen in the work as exhibited. Osborn called Knight's model of the dryptosaurs "the most extreme example of a highly conjectural restoration," but he seems to have sympathized with it. The model became the basis for a Knight painting that has been often reproduced, now that the concept of leaping dinosaurs is back in vogue.


Osborn, Henry Fairfield. "Models of extinct vertebrates," in: Science, vol. 7 (1898), pp. 841-845. This work was on display in the original exhibition as item 30.

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