Paleontologists have so far discovered 42 new species of dinosaurs this year. And while that may seem like a lot, it’s actually below the yearly average that spans nearly two decades.
Dubbed the “golden age of paleontology,” there have been more than 45 new dinosaur species discovered every year since 2003, a pace that National Geographic called “staggering.”
Why are so many dinosaurs still being discovered?
Part of that is because paleontology itself is growing.
“It’s more people doing the work: more eyes on the ground, more teams, more parts of the world being investigated,” University of Maryland’s Tom Holtz told National Geographic.
That’s allowed more scientists to search unexplored regions of the world like China or Argentina, which has led to some groundbreaking finds.
- There, scientists discovered the Stegouros elengassen, a small, armored dinosaur with a uniquely shingled tail that National Geographic reported was unveiled in December.
The largest dinosaur ever found in Australia, a two-story, plant-eating sauropod the length of a basketball court that lived over 98 million years ago.
- The fossilized remains were first excavated in 2006-2007, and over the summer researchers confirmed that it was the largest dinosaur that inhabited the land Down Under.
“Paleontology has been undergoing this massive revolution,” Dr. Jingmai O’Connor, vertebrae paleontologist at the Chinese Academy of Science in Beijing, told National Geographic.
CT scans, new on the paleontology scene, are also contributing to the boom, giving scientists an in-depth look at dinosaur brains. “There’s a ton of new morphological information we can get through these high-resolution imaging techniques that are fairly new,” O’Connor said.
What new dinosaurs have been discovered in Utah?
Utah has long been a hotbed of interesting dinosaur discoveries. Scientists recently unearthed skeletal remains in Canyonlands National Park that had the paleontology world buzzing.
Paleontologists still aren’t sure what to call the 1 1/2-foot-long remains, and told the Deseret News it could be a “cousin” to a reptile or mammal. But one thing is for sure — it’s old. Roughly 300 million years old, which makes it 50 million years older than the oldest known dinosaur fossil.
“It’s kind of cool that it’s, like I said, from a period in Earth’s history where we just don’t have a lot of fossils from in North America especially. So it’s literally groundbreaking in and of itself because almost anything we can find out about this animal is going to be new and exciting,” said Adam Marsh, the lead paleontologist at Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona.