Scientists who study the different forms of life that have existed in previous geologic periods are called paleontologists. They take a look at fossils from the past and make hypothesis about how creatures and people lived thousands and millions of years ago. In this article, you will encounter a host of fossil and dinosaurs hunters, such as Mary Anning and Luis Alvarez.
Luis Alvarez (1911 – 1988) was a physicist who hypothesized that a large asteroid hit Earth around 65 million years ago, and it is this mass that he believes was the cause of mass extinction on the planet. His geologist son, Walter Alvarez, also helped him with his theories. Many have accepted the Alvarez Asteroid Impact Theory as a suitable explanation. In addition to solving the mystery of dinosaur extinction, Alvarez also received a Nobel Prize in physics for his work on subatomic particles in 1968. He was a rather busy scientist , taking out more than 40 patents , some of which were turned into commercial products. To learn more about this theory, read the article titled, “The Alvarez Asteroid Impact Theory” for more information.
When Mary Anning (1799-1847) was a child, she took an interest in finding fossils. It wasn’t long before she started to support herself and family by locating fossils and then selling them. Anning was a resident of the southern coast of England in Lyme Regis , a place made famous by its cliffs by the sea that contain a treasure trove of fossil layers that date from the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. These time periods are significant because they represent a time when dinosaurs and other very interesting reptiles roamed the earth. The fossils of large insects, sea creatures and early mammals are also uncovered at this site.
Anning is recognized in the scientific community for finding and preparing the first fossilized plesiosaur and the first Ichthyosaurus. She is responsible for many other significant dinosaur fossil finds, such as the Pterodactylus (a reptile that flew), shark, and many other ancient fish. With the help of her brother, Anning brought prepared fossil specimens to numerous museums, scientists, and private collections.
John Horner is a paleontologist from the United States who named two species of dinosaur during his studies. In 1979, he named the Maissaura (meaning ‘Good Mother Lizard’) and the Orodromeus (meaning ‘mountain runner’) in 1988. When Horner found the Maiasaura, he uncovered the first egg clutches in the Americas, which provided proof that dinosaurs were capable of parental care.
The Maiasaura was a large duck-billed dinosaur that lived on plants. The species was the first dinosaur located alongside its young, eggs, and nests, which meant that the Maiasaura nurtured its young. Other characteristics of the dinosaur include a flat skull, toothless beak, cheek pouches and hoof-like claws for feet.
The Orodromeus was a plant eater with a small, lightweight build that could run quite fast. It measured about 8 feet long and lived during the late Cretaceous period , which was around 77 to 73 million years ago. Fossils of the Orodromeus were located at Egg Mountain in Montana, along with other eggs belonging to a different species.