PHILADELPHIA The golden age of dinosaur discovery is yet upon us, according to Peter Dodson at the University of Pennsylvania. In a forthcoming issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Dodson revises his groundbreaking 1990 census on the diversity of discoverable dinosaurs upward by 50%, offering a brighter outlook about the number of dinosaurs waiting to be found. His findings also add evidence that dinosaur populations were stable, and not on the decline, in the time shortly before their extinction 65 million years ago.
Dodson proposes that 1,850 genera (the plural of genus, an organizational group comprised of one or more separate species) will eventually be discovered, in total. Since the dinosaur research began in earnest in the 19th century, only 527 genera have so far been found, although that number is currently changing at the rate of 10 to 20 per year.
"It's a safe bet that a child born today could expect a very fruitful career in dinosaur paleontology," said Dodson, professor of anatomy in Penn's School of Veterinary Medicine and professor in Penn's Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences. "Unfortunately, there is a finite limit to what can be discovered, so our estimates show that the child's grandchildren won't be so fortunate as new discoveries will likely decline sharply in the early 22nd century."
Dodson and co-author Steve Wang, a statistician at Swarthmore College, estimate that 71% of all dinosaur genera that could be found are still awaiting discovery. The researchers predict that 75% of discoverable genera will be found within 60-100 years and 90% within the next 140 years.
In 1990, Dodson first census paper coincided with his publication of The Dinosauria," the first book to comprehensively depict known dinosaurs. In preparing for the second edition, published last year, Dodson revisited his projections to account for the sudden increase of dinosaur fossil discoveries during the 1990s
Contact: Greg Lester
University of Pennsylvania