Dinosaurs: Ancient Fossils, New Discoveries
Imagine the thrill of discovering something brand-new about a creature that lived millions of years ago. Ever since the first dinosaur fossil was identified almost 200 years ago, people have wondered how these fascinating animals lived, moved, and behaved. At first, dinosaur hunters used only such tools as a keen eye, shovels, and compasses. Today, scientists also rely on everything from satellite technology to scanning electron microscopes.
Take a journey into the exciting world of modern paleontology. New dinosaur fossils are being discovered faster than ever before. Advanced technology allows scientists to look at these fossils in fresh ways. And researchers are gaining surprising insights into these amazing animals.
Answers are coming from an area of science called biomechanics. This approach applies principles of physics and engineering to biological movement; it lets scientists study animals-including humans-as if they were machines.
What are these unusual body parts good for? What purpose, we wonder, could they serve?
Perhaps more than any other kind of fossil, footprints evoke the walking, running, living and breathing animals of the past.
Researchers have long wondered about the purpose of such peculiar features. Perhaps some served to protect the animal in battle. Others might have helped a dinosaur stay cool. More recently, scientists have come to another conclusion: Some of these features were likely used by dinosaurs in the competition for mates or to recognize members of their own species.
Get ready to travel back in time. Your voyage will take you to a part of eastern Asia as it looked 130 million years ago. At the time, this region--now in the Chinese province of Liaoning--was warm and dry.
You've probably heard how dinosaurs went extinct: They were all killed one terrible day when a huge object from outer space-a comet or asteroid the size of at least 100,000 Superdomes-slammed into Earth around 65 million years ago. But this description is not quite right.
Not long ago, all we knew of the great dinosaurs was the shape of their bones and the sound of their names--the rest of our "knowledge" was largely guesswork. Today, scientists probe the way these creatures moved and ate, lived and died. And in decades to come, researchers aim to understand dinosaurs nearly as well as they understand some animals living on Earth today.
Dr. Mark Norell, Chair and Curator, Division of Paleontology, Curator, Dinosaurs: Ancient Fossils, New Discoveries
Take a quick peek behind the scenes at some Exhibitions staff members hard at work preparing exhibits for Dinosaurs.
Use these free online resources to further explore themes presented in the Dinosaurs: Ancient Fossils, New Discoveries exhibition.
Dinosaurs: Ancient Fossils, New Discoveries and its accompanying education and public programs were made possible by Bank of America. Major funding has also been provided by the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Endowment Fund.
Dinosaurs: Ancient Fossils, New Discoveries is organized by the American Museum of Natural History, New York (www.amnh.org), in collaboration with the Houston Museum of Natural Science; the California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco; The Field Museum, Chicago; and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, Raleigh.