A “Golden Age” for the Study of Palaeontology
Not since the late 1870’s, the era of Marsh and Cope and their famous expeditions to find dinosaur fossils and the remains of other long extinct creatures in the western United States have so many new genera of dinosaurs been discovered. We at Everything Dinosaur, estimate that on average, a new genus of dinosaur is named and described every twenty to thirty days. What with all these new fossil finds and the application of new research techniques on existing museum specimens, we are certainly living in a “Golden Age” of palaeontology.
But what of the next twelve months? What new discoveries and exciting breakthroughs will be reported over the coming year? Traditionally, the turn of the year is a time for looking forward, so we have put our heads together and come up with five palaeontology predictions for 2011. Just for a bit of fun, we have stared into our crystal balls, studied the tea leaves at the bottom of our tea cups and come up with five palaeontology predictions for 2011.
1). Expect More “Aussie” Dinosaurs
Australia may be more closely associated with barbecues and bad cricket teams at the moment, but we predict great things ahead for dinosaur discoveries down under in 2011. Up until the 1980s very few dinosaur fossils had been found in Australia. This was due to a number of reasons, firstly for much of the age of dinosaurs Australia was underwater, marine reptile fossils such as Ichthyosaurs and Pliosaurs had been discovered but since dinosaurs are known to be terrestrial animals very few dinosaur fossils were found. Secondly, Australia is a very large country and a considerable portion of the Mesozoic aged rocks were located in remote out-of-the-way areas, so a substantial part of the geology of the continent had yet to be fully explored. However, a number of dinosaur fossil sites are known from Queensland and Victoria and a number of unique Australian dinosaurs have been named and described in the last few years. We predict that a number of new Australian “dinos” will be discovered, a new genus of Sauropod and perhaps a new Theropod dinosaur, perhaps field workers in Australia will discover a new type of meat-eating dinosaur, perhaps a large Allosaur to rival America’s Tyrannosaurus rex.
2). Dinosaurs to go Under the Hammer
A trend in recent years has been to see more dinosaur and other prehistoric animal fossils go up for sale at auction. Many collections from museums that have wanted to raise funds, or from wealthy individuals have gone under the hammer. This is likely to continue in 2011, particularly with the current economic difficulties. It is unlikely that individual specimens will fetch the record prices seen in the late 1990s but the trend to have rare fossils bought up by wealthy, private collectors is likely to continue and yet more important specimens will be lost to science. Once a fossil is sold in this way, it rarely finds its way back to a museum or to a research institute for study. With even Hollywood celebrities like Nicholas Cage expressing an interest in dinosaur fossils, we think that the trend for dinosaur fossil auctions will continue and we predict more such sales over the next twelve months, including the sale of complete, mounted, articulated dinosaur exhibits.