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SciCafe: Why Dinosaurs Matter

Part of SciCafe

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Titanosaur Photo by Mauricio Rodriguez

Why were dinosaurs so big? How did they dominate our planet for over 150 million years? What can long-dead dinosaurs teach us about our future? Plenty, according to paleontologist Diego Pol, who has discovered some of the largest dinosaurs to ever walk the Earth, including The Titanosaur. Pol weaves together stories of our planet's geological history, exploring the meaning of fossils and our own place on the vast and bountiful tree of life.

Meet the Speaker

Diego Pol's headshot

Diego Pol studies dinosaurs and other fossil reptiles and specializes in understanding their evolution through time. Pol has also worked in multiple international projects and expeditions and published scientific studies of fossils from South Africa, Madagascar, Colombia, Brazil, Mongolia, and China. During the last ten years Pol’s research has been focused on the remarkable animal biodiversity from the dinosaur era preserved in Patagonia. Pol and his research team have recently discovered fossils of over 20 new species of dinosaurs, crocodiles, and other vertebrates that are revealing new chapters in the history of Patagonia's past ecosystems. Many of these discoveries revealed a previously unknown Jurassic biota from South America but discoveries in Cretaceous rocks also include the largest known dinosaur so far, the titanosaur Patagotitan mayorum, a 122-feet long herbivore estimated to weigh 70 tons.

His research on these fossils helped understanding the origin and evolution of gigantism in sauropod dinosaurs during the Mesozoic Era. Pol has led National Geographic-sponsored expeditions that resulted in the discovery of an ancient dinosaur nesting ground that provided some of the oldest dinosaur eggs and embryos in the world. He received his Ph.D. degree at the joint program of Columbia University and the American Museum of Natural History in 2005. Since 2006 he has led the Vertebrate Paleontology program at the MEF Museum in Patagonia (Argentina). Diego Pol is also a Research Associate of the American Museum of Natural History and recently a Tinker Visiting Professor at the University of Chicago.

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Generous support for The Titanosaur exhibit has been provided by the Susan S. and Kenneth L. Wallach Foundation.