These paleontologists and fossil hunters changed dinosaur history (2023)

Without the concerted efforts of literally thousands of paleontologists, evolutionary biologists, and geologists, we wouldn't know as much about dinosaurs today. Below are profiles of 12 dinosaur hunters from around the world who have made enormous contributions to our knowledge of these ancient beasts.


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Luis Alvarez (1911-1988)

These paleontologists and fossil hunters changed dinosaur history (1)

Luis Álvarez was a physicist by training, not a paleontologist, but that didn't stop him from developing theories about a meteorite impact that killed the dinosaurs 65 million years ago and then (with his son Walter) finding actual proof of the truth.impact crateron the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico in the form of scattered remnants of the element iridium. For the first time, scientists have come up with a convincing explanation for why the dinosaurs went extinct 65 million years ago, which, of course, hasn't stopped outsiders from making dubious suggestions.alternative theories.


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Maria Anning (1799-1847)

These paleontologists and fossil hunters changed dinosaur history (2)

Maria Anningwas an influential fossil hunter even before the term was widely used: in the early 19th centuryichthyosaurusand aplesiosaurio), as well as the firstpterosauriosnever discovered outside of Germany. Remarkably, when she died in 1847, Anning had received a life pension from the British Association for the Advancement of Science, at a time when women were not expected to be literate, let alone pursue science! (By the way, Anning was also the inspiration for the old nursery rhyme, "She She Sells Shells by the Seashore.")


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Robert H. Bakker (1945-)

These paleontologists and fossil hunters changed dinosaur history (3)

For almost three decadesRoberto H. Bakkerwas the main proponent of the theory that dinosaurs werewarm-bloodedlike mammals, rather than cold-blooded like modern lizards (how else, he argues, do the hearts ofsauropodsDid he get blood pumped into his head?) Not all scientists are convinced by Bakker's theory, which he inherited from his mentor, John H. Ostrom, the first scientist to propose an evolutionary connection between dinosaurs and birds, but he has sparked a fierce debate about dinosaurs. metabolism that is likely to continue for the foreseeable future.


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Barnumbraun (1873-1963)

These paleontologists and fossil hunters changed dinosaur history (4)

Barnum Brown (yes, he was named after P.T. Barnum of traveling circus fame) wasn't very intellectual or innovative, and he wasn't even much of a scientist or paleontologist. Rather, Brown made a name for himself as New York's leading fossil hunter at the turn of the 20th century.American Museum of Natural History, so he preferred (fast) dynamite to (slow) spikes. Brown's exploits whetted the American public's appetite for dinosaur skeletons, particularly at his own institution, now the world's most famous repository of prehistoric fossils. Brown's most famous discovery: the first documented fossils of none other thanTyranosaurian Rex.


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Edwin H. Colbert (1905-2001)

These paleontologists and fossil hunters changed dinosaur history (5)

Edwin H. Colbert had already made a name for himself as a practicing paleontologist (he discovered the first dinosaursCoelophysisand Staurikosaurus, among others), when he made his most influential discovery in Antarctica: a skeleton of the mammal-like reptilelistrosaurio, proving that Africa and this vast southern continent were once connected in one gigantic landmass. Since then, the theory ofcontinental driftit has done much to advance our understanding of dinosaur evolution; For example, we now know that thefirst dinosaursit evolved in the region of the supercontinent Pangea, which corresponds to present-day South America, and then spread to the rest of the world's continents over the next million years.


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Edward Drinker Cope (1840-1897)

These paleontologists and fossil hunters changed dinosaur history (6)

No one in history (with the possible exception of Adam) has named more prehistoric animals than the 19th century American paleontologist Edward Drinker Cope.camarasaurioYdimetrodon). Today, however, Cope is best known for his role in thebone wars, his ongoing feud with his archrival Othniel C. Marsh (see slide #10), who was no slouch when it came to hunting for fossils. How bitter was this personality clash? Well, later in his career, Marsh was denied positions to Cope at the Smithsonian Institution and the American Museum of Natural History.


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Dong Zhiming (1937-)

These paleontologists and fossil hunters changed dinosaur history (7)

An inspiration to a generation of Chinese paleontologists, Dong Zhiming has led numerous expeditions to the Dashanpu Formation of northwest China, where he has unearthed the remains of several specimens.hadrosaurio,pachycephalosaurus, Ysauropods(He himself names no fewer than 20 different genera of dinosaurs, including Shunosaurus andMicropaquicefalosaurio). In some ways, Dong's influence has been felt most profoundly in northeast China, where paleontologists have unearthed numerous specimens emulating his example.dinosaur birdsof Liaoning's fossil beds, many of which shed valuable light on the slow evolutionary transition from dinosaurs to birds.


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Jack Horner (1946-)

These paleontologists and fossil hunters changed dinosaur history (8)

too many peopleJack Hornerwill always be famous as the inspiration for the character of Sam Neill in the FirstJurassic ParkMovie. But Horner is best known among paleontologists for his groundbreaking discoveries, including the extensive nesting grounds of the duck-billed dinosaur.mayasauraand a piece of herTyranosaurian Rexwith intact soft tissues, the analysis of which has supported the evolutionary descent of birds from dinosaurs. Horner has been in the news lately for his semi-serious plan to clone a dinosaur from a live chicken and, slightly less controversially, for his recent claim that the horned, frilled dinosaur Torosaurus was actually an unusually ancient human. .TriceratopsAdult.


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Othniel C. Marsh (1831–1899)

These paleontologists and fossil hunters changed dinosaur history (9)

Othniel C. Marsh, working in the late 19th century, secured his place in history by naming more popular dinosaurs than any other paleontologist, includingAlosaurio,stegosaurus, YTriceratops. What is best remembered today, however, is his role in The Wars of the Bones, his ongoing feud with Edward Drinker Cope (see slide #7). Thanks to this rivalry, Marsh and Cope discovered and named many more dinosaurs than they would have if they could have coexisted peacefully, greatly expanding our knowledge of this extinct race. (Unfortunately, this dispute also had negative ramifications: Marsh and Cope established different genera and species of dinosaurs so quickly and carelessly that modern paleontologists are still busy cleaning up the mess.)


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Ricardo Owen (1804-1892)

These paleontologists and fossil hunters changed dinosaur history (10)

Far from being the nicest person on this list, Richard Owen used his august position (as superintendent of the British Museum's collection of vertebrate fossils in the mid-19th century) to harass and intimidate his colleagues, including the eminent paleontologist Gideon Mantell. . Still, there's no denying the impact Owen had on our understanding of prehistoric life; After all, he was the man who coined the word "dinosaur" and was also one of the first scholars to study it.Arqueoptérixand the newly discoveredtherapists("mammal-like reptiles") from South Africa. Interestingly, Owen was very slow to accept Charles Darwin's theory of evolution, perhaps because he was jealous that he hadn't come up with the idea himself!


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Pablo Sereno (1957-)

These paleontologists and fossil hunters changed dinosaur history (11)

Paul Sereno, the early 21st century version of Edward Drinker Cope and Othniel C. Marsh but with a much friendlier character, has become the public face of fossil hunting for a generation of schoolchildren. Often sponsored by the National Geographic Society, Sereno has led well-funded expeditions to fossil sites around the world, including South America, China, Africa, and India, and has named numerous genera of prehistoric animals, including one of the earliest dinosaurs. real, the south americanEraptor. Sereno was particularly successful in North Africa, where he led teams that discovered and named both giant sauropods.Jobariaand the vicious "Great Jawed Lizard",carcharodontosaurio.


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Patricia Vickers Rich (1944-)

These paleontologists and fossil hunters changed dinosaur history (12)

Patricia Vickers-Rich (along with her husband Tim Rich) has done more to advance Australian paleontology than any other scientist. The many discoveries of hers at Dinosaur Cove, including the big-eyed ornithopod.Leaellynasaura, named after his daughter, and the controversial "bird mimic" dinosaur Timimus, named after his son, have shown that some dinosaurs thrive in near arctic conditions.whiteboardAustralia, lending weight to the theory that dinosaurs were warm-blooded (and more adaptable to environmental extremes than previously thought). Vickers-Rich was also not opposed to seeking corporate sponsorship for his dinosaur expeditions;QantassaurioYAtlascopcosaurusboth were named after Australian businesses!

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