A Moment of Science

A World Full of Dinosaurs

Dinosaurs are ancient history, but there is still a very exciting future for fossil research.

Sinraptor hepingensis skull from the Beijing Musuem of Natural History

Photo: FarleyKatz (wikimedia)

Argentina and China have proved especially rich in fossils. In fact, we have discovered as many in the past 20 years as in all of history before that point.

A new study coming out of Swarthmore College and the University of Pennsylvania, has shown that most dinosaurs haven’t even been discovered yet.

A statistician named Steve Wang used a mathematical model that allows us to extrapolate from data we have on a given genera to the likely size of the entire genera. Genera is just the plural form of genus. In biology, genus is one step above species on the classification chart, and lots of species go together to make up a genus.

Working with paleontologist Peter Dodson, Wang added up the data on every known genus of dinosaurs and ran the numbers. What came up might surprise you. According to these predictions, we have yet to even discover as much as 70% of the dinosaurs that once existed.

That’s right, the vast majority of dinosaurs haven’t even been discovered yet! A lot of them never will be, because they didn’t leave any fossils, or the ones they left have been destroyed. However, paleontologists are fast cataloging new dinosaurs. Argentina and China have proved especially rich in fossils. In fact, we have discovered as many in the past 20 years as in all of history before that point.

If the mathematical prediction holds good, there are plenty left to be found.

Stay Connected

What is RSS? RSS makes it possible to subscribe to a website's updates instead of visiting it by delivering new posts to your RSS reader automatically. Choose to receive some or all of the updates from A Moment of Science:

Support for Indiana Public Media Comes From

About A Moment of Science

Search A Moment of Science