By Nicky Dee, dinosaur expert and author of The Bone Wars.

The Bone Wars

The Bone Wars

The Great Dinosaur Rush of the late 1800s is an amazing time in American history; it’s when the search for dinosaurs really began to get exciting. 

Cope and Marsh led the hunt. They started out as friends but their palaeontological obsession drove them apart. Greed led to some pretty sneaky tactics, including spying, fakery and bribery, as each tried to beat the other to the next big dinosaur discovery. 

Despite their bitter feud, these two men changed the face of American science forever.

Here dinosaur fanatic Nicky Dee, author of ‘The Bone Wars’, shares a few facts you may not know about dinosaurs and the infamous American Bone Wars:

The very first dinosaur wasn’t discovered in America – it was actually found in England, in a quarry near Oxford. It was named Megalosaurus, which means ‘great lizard’.

This excitement soon spread across the Atlantic to America and this is where the two stars of The Bone Wars, Othniel Charles Marsh and Edward Drinker Cope, got caught up in the frenzied search for more larger-than-life creatures. In the late 1800’s people wanted to be famous, not for being a footballer or a movie star, but for being a scientist!

The Greatest Dinosaur Graveyard in the world is a place called Como Bluff in Wyoming, USA, where massive fossils were literally scattered across the ground, waiting to be discovered.

At the beginning of the Bone Wars (1860’s) a handful of dinosaurs had been discovered, by the end (1890’s) over 144 had been named (although a few have been discounted since).

Ever heard of the Brontosaurus v Apatosaurus debate?  Marsh named both in 1870’s, claiming they were different species.  In 1903, it was decided that they were the young and old of the same species and as Apatosaurus had been discovered first, its name was to be kept. Then… in 2015, a new group of scientists decided they were indeed different species!  Hurrah for Brontosaurus, the name ‘thunder lizard’ was back!

To date, over 1,400 dinosaurs have been discovered worldwide – who knows how many more are waiting to be discovered - and who will discover them?

America is a massive country, 40 times bigger than the UK, and until the opening of the transcontinental railway in 1869, all fossils had to be transported by horse and wagon.  Slow, very heavy work for the horses.  The trains changed everything, so much larger loads could be transported in super-quick time.

Amongst Cope’s 64 discoveries is Coelophysis.  How proud would Cope be if he knew that his discovery is the first fossil to travel into space!  A skull travelled on board the Space Shuttle Endeavour and was taken to the Russian MIR Space Station. How cool is that?


Nicky Dee is a dedicated dinosaur expert and HUGE fan! Having fallen under the spell of these ever-popular prehistoric creatures, Nicky became so obsessed that she changed her career to write books about dinosaurs full-time. Her desire to give children the most up to date information in a fun and engaging way led to the creation of the series, which spans the 180 million years when dinosaurs ruled the world.

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