The dinosaur is perhaps one of the most fascinating creatures that still brings questions to our minds. From kid’s cartoons to blockbuster movies, we have seen dinosaurs everywhere, especially as prehistoric creatures. However, how did we discover that they ever existed? Thanks to paleontologists who dig deep into the Earth to find lives that strived millions of years ago.
Paleontology is the study of fossils that reveal significant information about life on Earth. From the evolution of plants and animals to other organisms, paleontologists dig deep to discover their existence and put together our Earth’s past. In fact, many scholars have stated that paleontology is one of the most important studies one cannot oversee.
Today, we will walk through some paleontologists and their prehistoric adventures to give our brains some good exercise.
Is Paleontology Important?
While paleontology deals with fossils that might have strived millions of years ago, it is highly relevant to the modern world. Paleontology studies ancient life forms and their evolution over the years. The study gives us an insight into how specific organisms and creatures of various species existed and evolved even before human life came into existence.
The most significant aspect of studying fossils is their tangible connection to the life and climate of historic times. Studying fossils can give us an idea of how climate, landscapes, and life evolved in the past. The study can help us understand how living organisms reacted to these changes and how they got affected.
Thus, we can better understand the principles of biodiversity and extinction if we indulge ourselves with paleontological findings. Today, many paleontologists are trying to utilize digital tools, like Youtube, to promote such findings and educate the audience. You can also use social platforms and websites to offer virtual lessons on fossil findings to your followers and increase scientific awareness.
Prehistoric Adventures Of Paleontologists: Famous Fossils
Let us go through some of the prehistoric fossil findings of paleontologists in this section to get a better understanding of the discipline.
We all know about T. rex. It is short for Tyrannosaurus rex, a large, carnivorous dinosaur that existed 68-66 million years ago. Research says this species strived during the Cretaceous period and is one of the largest and most fearsome. The fossils of T. rex were first found in 1902 in Hell Creek, Montana, by Barnum Brown.
- rex was a bipedal dinosaur. It had strong hind legs and small forelimbs. With a strong jaw and a large head, it had excellent eyesight and a sense of smell. After paleontologists discovered the T. rex fossil, they found valuable information regarding their evolution, diet, and hunting behavior.
Further, T. rex bones and teeth helped paleontologists examine and understand the physiology and biomechanics of other predatory dinosaurs. Evidence of asteroid impact was also established after studying the T. rex fossil, which led to the extinction of dinosaurs. It is one of the greatest prehistoric findings that lies in the museum today for further research by paleontologists.
Have you heard of the Titanosaur? Patagotitan mayorum is a 70-ton Titanosaur that weighed twice as much as the T. rex. After finding the fossils of the Titanosaur at La Flecha ranch in Patagonia, it was found that the Titanosaur weighed equivalent to almost 10 African elephants.
A worker found the fossils of the Titanosaur while he was managing the sheep at La Flecha. When he saw the remnants, the ranch’s owner called paleontologists for further research. It took more than a year to discover all the fossilized bones by the paleontologists.
After excavating the area for more than a year and finding 200 fossilized bones, paleontologists finally discovered the fossils of six dinosaurs coming from a new genus of sauropod, the Titanosaurs. The Patagotitan mayorum was 40 feet tall Titanosaur with a long neck. Deeper studies found that the titanosaur existed over 95 million years ago, even before T. rex.
Coelacanths refer to a group of fish. They were believed to have gone extinct 66 million years ago with the dinosaurs. However, a living coelacanth was found in 1938 in South Africa. Since then, paleontologists have referred to coelacanths as “living fossils.”
The living coelacanths have similar features to their ancient ancestors. They have a lobe-shaped tail and paired fins. They are known to be a unique fish group with a hollow, oil-filled spine. Today, the law protects coelacanths in many states.
The most significant contribution made by coelacanth is finding the “missing link” between fish and tetrapods (four-limbed vertebrates). The fossils helped paleontologists understand vertebrate evolution over the years.
Instead of being a particular fossil, the Burgess Shale is a fossil deposit discovered by Charles Walcott in the Canadian Rockies. It is a famous site known for having fossils from the Cambrian period, approximately 508 million years ago.
The Burgess Shale has preserved a variety of creatures, including mollusks, chordates, and arthropods. The unusual body plans of animals found on the site still challenge paleontologists with historical questions.
The reason why Burgess Shale became a perfect spot for fossiliztion is because of rapid burial by sediment and a lack of oxygen. This tactic allowed the soft tissues to preserve themselves. Hence, Burgess Shale became an interesting window into the early life on Earth.
Finding fossils of creatures that lived millions of years ago will always keep us in awe. Moreover, the scientific insights that these discoveries provide are important in understanding the mechanisms of evolution on Earth.