Early Scientific Studies of Dinosaurs The North and South Americans

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic Ocean, fossil evidence of dinosaurs was being discovered in North America in the latter part of the eighteenth and early part of the nineteenth centuries, although none of it was connected with dinosaurs at the time. The first probable dinosaur-related discovery in North America was in 1787, when anatomist Caspar Wistar (1761-1818) presented a bone from Cretaceous rocks of Woodbury, New Jersey to the American Philosophical Society, presided over by Benjamin Franklin (1706-90). George Washington (1732-99), who is also known for his interest in fossils, examined the same bone and mentioned it in one of his writings. Unfortunately, Wistar interpreted the bone as a large man's femur instead of recognizing it as an ornithopod metatarsal; if he had identified it correctly as reptile-like, this discovery would have preceded Buckland by 28 years. In 1802, Pliny Moody, a farm boy and student at Williams College, made a more definitive discovery of dinosaurs in North America when he uncovered a rock with Lower Jurassic theropod tracks while plowing his family's field in South Hadley, Massachusetts. The tracks are still in the possession of nearby Amherst College and on display there. Because they had such a close resemblance to the three-toed morphology of modern bird feet, and religion provided the primary framework for explanations of natural phenomena at the time, the footprints were attributed to "Noah's raven." William Clark (of Lewis and Clark fame; 1770-1838) also described a large bone in 1806 that was probably eroding from the Late Cretaceous Hell Creek Formation in present-day Montana; hence it was probably from a dinosaur, but Clark interpreted it as the remains of a large fish. Prosauropod remains were found in 1818 by Solomon Ellsworth, Jr., in Upper Triassic deposits of the Connecticut Valley. Nathan Smith described these fossils in a published report in 1820, and he interpreted them as possibly human. These four examples were representative of a thankfully short-lived American tradition: the mistaken attribution of dinosaur fossils as representatives of most other recognized vertebrate groups.

Nevertheless, the lack of connection between dinosaur fossils and their actual identity continued in the voluminous and otherwise groundbreaking work on dinosaur tracks by the Reverend Edward Hitchcock (1793-1864; Fig. 3.5). Beginning in 1836, Hitchcock's studies of tracks in Late Triassic and Early Jurassic rocks of the Connecticut Valley represented further discoveries in Moody's (and the

Moody's rock slabs containing the "bird" tracks were stored in a quaint building called the Appleton Cabinet, the first structure made for the purpose of holding dinosaur trace fossils; its refurbished version is now a dormitory for students of Amherst College.

FIGURE 3.5 Edward Hitchcock, describer of numerous examples of Late Triassic and Early Jurassic dinosaur tracks from the Connecticut River Valley, and dinosaur tracks figured in his 1858 publication. From Amherst College Archives and Special Collections, Negative Collection, Box 1, fig. 69, and Box 3, figs 4a-5a.

dinosaurs') old stomping grounds. Hitchcock analyzed thousands of dinosaur tracks, and tracks of dinosaur contemporaries, in his collection at Amherst College, where he was president.

Continuing the original "Noah's raven" theme, Hitchcock interpreted the numerous dinosaur tracks as originating from large, prehistoric birds, which was a perfectly reasonable hypothesis in the light of his data and then-current ideas about dinosaurs. For example, three-toed animals made many of the tracks he described and most of the trackways indicated a bipedalism that had not been yet ascribed to dinosaurs. The tracks also resemble those of flightless birds in some ways, with the notable exception of their large sizes. In an 1844 report, Hitchcock was the first person to describe probable dinosaur coprolites (fossilized feces, Chapter 14), which he also attributed to birds. Hitchcock's comprehensive summary of his findings, Ichnology of New England (1858), was the first work to prominently use the term ichnology for the science of traces and trace fossils (Chapters 2 and 14). This classic work is still cited, not only for its extensive illustrations and descriptions of dinosaur tracks, but because it contains some of the few recorded instances of dinosaur sitting traces and tail-drag marks.

Another paleontological enthusiast in Massachusetts at the same time was John Collins Warren (1778-1856). Warren was a Harvard physician who also dabbled 3

in fossils while maintaining his primary interest in anatomy; his first exposure to anatomical studies began with his father, who was the founder of Harvard Medical School. The younger Warren studied anatomy with Cuvier in Paris and later performed the first surgery with anesthesia in 1846. In 1854, Warren had the distinction of publishing not only the first photographic illustration of a dinosaur track, but also the first photograph shown in an American scientific publication. Scientific illustration, particularly for such photogenic subjects as dinosaurs, was forever changed, although photography was a new and difficult-to-use medium that would not see extensive use in dinosaur studies until later in the nineteenth century.

Despite all of this good science, no one had yet identified a dinosaur fossil from North America until the works of Joseph Leidy (1823-91), who initiated Americans' recurring fascination with dinosaurs. Leidy, a physician and anatomist from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, became bored with medicine and soon turned to paleontology and other aspects of natural history. In 1856 he published a study of the dinosaur teeth found the previous year by Ferdinand Vandiveer Hayden in Upper Cretaceous strata of what is now Montana. Leidy named one of the dinosaurs, Troodon, on only the basis of these teeth (a risky scientific endeavor), which later studies revealed as one of the most interesting theropods ever found in North America (Chapter 9). It was another dinosaur, however, that would make Leidy a celebrity in the USA. William Parker Foulke found a Late Cretaceous dinosaur, the ornithopod (and hadrosaurid) Hadrosaurus foulkii, in nearby New Jersey; the dinosaur was graciously named after its discoverer. Foulke had been steered to the site by the landowner and previous discoverer of probable dinosaur bones, John E. Hopkins. This dinosaur was similar to and probably related to Iguanodon, but Leidy provided an incisive interpretation of it; on the basis of the relatively complete skeleton, he argued convincingly for the inherent bipedalism of a dinosaur. Moreover, he pointed out that, judging from its limbs, Hadrosaurus was likely a facultative quadruped, meaning that it could have walked on all fours if necessary. This hypothesis was later supported by the find of probable ornithopod tracks that reflect such behavior (Chapters 11 and 14). Furthermore, Leidy proposed a preburial history of the specimen that was probably correct. He thought that this dinosaur originally dwelled on land and its body was washed out to sea, as its remains were found in a marine deposit (Chapter 7).

In 1868, the artist Waterhouse Hawkins, who was living in the USA at the time, attempted to use the same Hadrosaurus specimen as a model for artistic reconstruction. Sadly, political problems and vandalism of his works-in-progress led to him being denied an exhibit of the reconstruction, which was to have been displayed in New

York City's then newly-established Central Park. Consequently, the best that Hawkins could do was to make a cast of the Hadrosaurus skeleton, which remained on public display at the Academy of Sciences of Philadelphia for many years.

The melodramatic interactions between Cope and Marsh throughout their careers have inspired bibliographers and paleontologists alike to invoke clichés such as "bitter rivals" and "sworn mortal enemies." These two paleontologists' publicly aired hatred for one another could be the subject of an extensive psychological study

Edward Drinker Cope (1840-1897) and Othniel Charles (O.C.) Marsh (1831-99) (Fig. 3.6) (Chapter 2) produced simultaneously some of the most significant finds of dinosaurs in the world.

FIGURE 3.6 Edward Drinker Cope (left) and Othniel Charles (O.C.) Marsh (right), productive yet antagonistic contemporaries in dinosaur studies. Reprinted from Science, 1897 and 1889, respectively.

FIGURE 3.6 Edward Drinker Cope (left) and Othniel Charles (O.C.) Marsh (right), productive yet antagonistic contemporaries in dinosaur studies. Reprinted from Science, 1897 and 1889, respectively.

on megalomania. One anecdote that is incorrect but nevertheless amusing is that Marsh named coprolites after Cope. Although this book emphasizes Cope and Marsh's scientific contributions, which are unparalleled and may never be equaled, some slight digressions on their personal lives should add insight into them as both scientists and people.

Marsh and Cope had similar financial situations; both received large amounts of money from relatives and thus had few worries about earning a living, which freed their time for academic studies. Cope was the more precocious and prolific of the two, having more than 1400 scientific publications to his credit by the time he died. After he settled in Philadelphia, Cope was briefly a student of Leidy, and he associated himself with the Academy of Natural Sciences there (although Leidy would later distance himself from Cope as a result of the verbal warfare with Marsh). A peer-reviewed journal of herpetology (Copeia) was named after him in honor of his impressive contributions to the study of reptiles and amphibians. Marsh was not quite as industrious as Cope or as brilliant, but his political acumen was more finely developed, which helped him to gain much government support for his dinosaur studies. Marsh mostly worked through Yale University, where his rich uncle (George Peabody) had the Yale-Peabody Museum of Natural History built for him. He also held the title of Vertebrate Paleontologist with the newly-formed United States Geological Survey (USGS) for 10 years and was the president of the National Academy of Science for 12 years.

Cope and Marsh were important in the world of paleontology at the time. For example, when two schoolmasters, Arthur Lakes and Oramel W. Lucas, independently found dinosaur bones in Morrison, Colorado, and Canon City, Colorado (respectively) in 1877, they sent news of their finds to Cope and Marsh. This started what was later called the "Great Dinosaur Rush," which lasted for nearly 20 years and spanned present-day Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico, Montana, and other western states. During the ensuing frenzy of exploration and exploitation, the main producer of the numerous dinosaurs named by Cope and Marsh was the Morrison Formation, an Upper Jurassic rock unit that still produces many dinosaur fossils today (named after the settlement where Lakes lived). The thousands of dinosaur bones they collected were placed on railroad cars that, through the newly-built transcontinental railroad, could reach western areas that were previously inaccessible to dinosaur paleontologists.

Cope and Marsh's lasting influence is seen through their naming of so many now well-known dinosaurs, such as the thyreophoran Stegosaurus (Chapter 12), the sauropods Diplodocus and Apatosaurus (the latter then named Brontosaurus: Chapter 10), the theropods Allosaurus and Ceratosaurus (Chapter 9), the ceratopsian Triceratops (Chapter 13), and the ornithopod Camptosaurus (Chapter 11). They also attempted classification schemes, after Huxley but before Seeley, as a synthesis of 3

the dinosaur discoveries made by them and others. Most importantly, they pointed future investigators to the areas of North America with extensive Mesozoic deposits, clearly demonstrating the potential for more dinosaur discoveries.

Marsh was apparently averse to doing most of his own fieldwork, although reportedly during one field excursion he and some assistants met with leaders of the Sioux tribe, Red Cloud (1822-1909), Crazy Horse (1842-77), and Sitting Bull (1831-90), to gain permission for dinosaur prospecting in their territories. Marsh kept his promise to the Sioux that he would search only for dinosaur remains rather than gold, and Sioux scouts were reportedly gratified to find only bones in the possession of Marsh's party when they left. Marsh's assistants were probably also gratified to leave with their lives intact. Cope also went infrequently into the field in the western states, but more often than Marsh and always made significant finds when he did so. During one of Cope's trips, he met with Charles H. Sternberg (1850-1943), and they prospected Cretaceous deposits in Montana in 1876. Sternberg later told the now-famous stories of how the two men would typically hunt for dinosaur bones by day, eat an awful late-evening meal, and go to bed. According to Sternberg, Cope would then toss and turn in the throes of nightmares that brought his Mesozoic beasts back to life, wherein they pummeled him. During this same trip, Sternberg and Cope invented a method for protecting fossil specimens for their transport back east, by boiling rice into a paste and mixing it with cloth strips that were draped around the fossils to harden. Several of Marsh's associates modified Sternberg and Cope's technique the next year by using plaster of Paris and burlap, a technique that was used to make casts for broken human bones and is still used by many dinosaur paleontologists today (Chapter 4). Sternberg undoubtedly learned much about dinosaurs during his brief apprenticeship in the field with his nocturnally-tormented mentor. His sons George, Levi, and Charles M. Sternberg (1885-1981) later found more dinosaur bones in Canada than any other family since.

Before the end of the century, several new workers in North America entered the fray between Cope and Marsh and made remarkable contributions to dinosaur studies. These people were Henry Fairfield Osborn (1857-1935), William Berryman Scott, Barnum Brown (1873-1963), Walter Granger (1872-1941), and John Bell Hatcher (1861-1904). Osborn and Scott were good friends while undergraduates at Princeton University and decided, after being inspired in class one day by their geology professor, Arnold Guyot (after whom seafloor volcanoes, guyots, were named), to do the 1877 equivalent of a "road trip." They hopped on a train and went to Wyoming to find fossils. During their travels by train, horse, and wagon, and in between meeting Native Americans and mountain men, they learned much about fossils in a field context. Both became friends with Cope and went to Europe to study with Huxley for a while before they became faculty at Princeton. Osborn left Princeton in 1891 to become a staff member of the now-famous American Museum of Natural History, where he founded the Department of Vertebrate Paleontology and later became president.

In 1897, Osborn sent an expedition to look at the Morrison Formation in Como Bluff, Wyoming, the site of much dinosaur work done by Marsh's minions (Fig. 3.7). The group included Brown and Granger, both of whom were novices at field-work but would become two of the most important dinosaur paleontologists of the early twentieth century. This initial foray proved, after much searching, that Como Bluff did not have the dinosaurs it used to have. They moved farther to the north

FIGURE 3.7 Barnum Brown (left) and Henry Fairfield Osborn (right) in the field at Como Bluff, Wyoming, in 1897, with a sauropod (Diplodocus) limb bone in the foreground and Late Jurassic Morrison Formation cropping out nearly everywhere else. Negative No. 17808, Photo. Menke. Courtesy Dept. of Library Services, American Museum of Natural History.

FIGURE 3.7 Barnum Brown (left) and Henry Fairfield Osborn (right) in the field at Como Bluff, Wyoming, in 1897, with a sauropod (Diplodocus) limb bone in the foreground and Late Jurassic Morrison Formation cropping out nearly everywhere else. Negative No. 17808, Photo. Menke. Courtesy Dept. of Library Services, American Museum of Natural History.

the next year and discovered an area where dinosaur bones littered the ground in such abundance that a local shepherd had built a cabin out of them. The site, appropriately named Bone Cabin Quarry, provided about 30 tons of dinosaur bones of 141 individual skeletons during that year. Seven more annual expeditions by the American Museum followed. The number of individual dinosaurs and tonnage were recorded for six seasons and these records show how such sites can become quickly depleted of dinosaur bones with continued mining (Fig. 3.8).

John Bell Hatcher, during his short life of 42 years, collected 50 ceratopsian skeletons (many with skulls) from Upper Cretaceous deposits in Wyoming, while employed by Marsh from 1889 to 1892. This feat was single-handedly the most quantitatively important contribution to the study of these wonderfully diverse dinosaurs (Chapter 13). Hatcher became so disgruntled with Marsh that he eventually left and was hired by Scott at Princeton, for whom he did more work in Colorado through the turn of the century. In his publications, Hatcher expressed some of his disgust for Cope and Marsh's occasional scientific errors. Sadly, Hatcher

FIGURE 3.8 Bar graph showing decreased productivity of dinosaur bones from the Bone Cabin Quarry in number of specimens collected versus year. Data from Colbert (1968).

died of typhus while writing his classic work, The Ceratopsia. But fortunately for science, Richard Swan Lull (1867-1957), a paleontologist of some note himself (discussed below), posthumously published the manuscript in 1907.

Elsewhere in North America, George Mercer Dawson (1849-1901), who was the son of the important nineteenth-century geologist, Sir William Dawson (1820-99), discovered dinosaur bones in Saskatchewan, Canada in 1874. Like Osborn and Scott, George Dawson had studied with Huxley. Further discoveries were made in 1884 by Joseph Burr Tyrrell (1859-1957) in the Red Deer River valley, near Drumheller, Alberta, which was followed by other finds by one of his associates, Lawrence M. Lambe (1863-1919). As a member of the Canadian Geological Survey, Lambe took a boat down the Red Deer River in 1897 to document more dinosaur-bearing zones. Through the efforts of the Sternbergs, Brown, and other paleontologists, the Red Deer River area of Canada was revealed as one of the richest deposits of Late Cretaceous dinosaur bones in the world. Dawson, Tyrrell, and Lambe are also fine examples of the benefits of fieldwork for one's health. Dawson was very short and a hunchback, yet he energetically explored the wilderness areas of Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia for fossils throughout his career. Likewise, Tyrrell and Lambe began fieldwork in the late nineteenth century for health improvement; Lambe continued doing fieldwork until his death in 1919 and Tyrrell lived to the age of 98. In fact, Tyrrell exemplifies the longevity that is characteristic of many well-known, field-oriented paleontologists and geologists from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, who had average life spans well above typical life expectancies for their times (Table 3.1).

Only a few discoveries of dinosaurs from South America were documented as dinosaurs during the nineteenth century, although some regions later became history-making spots in dinosaur studies. The first discovery of dinosaur tracks in Columbia, South America, was by Carl Degenhardt in 1839, although he, like Hitchcock, thought they were bird tracks. The first discovery of dinosaur bones in the Cretaceous rocks of Patagonia, Argentina, was in 1882 by a military officer known only in historical records as Commandante Buratovich. Buratovich sent his finds to the renowned Argentine paleontologist Florentino Ameghino (1854-1911), who confirmed for the first time that Argentina had dinosaurs. Ameghino's brother, Carlos Ameghino (1865-1936), often assisted him by doing most of their fieldwork. Francisco P. Moreno (1852-1919) also found dinosaur bones in Argentina in 1891, reconfirming their presence for future workers. Another Argentine, Santiago Roth, began his paleontological career in the same area of Argentina soon after the Cretaceous dinosaur remains were found. In the early part of the twentieth century, Roth contributed to the dinosaur collection of the Museo de La Plata in Argentina, of which Moreno was the first director. These dinosaur finds were early indicators of later significant discoveries of skeletal material, eggs, nests, and tracks in Upper Triassic-Upper Cretaceous deposits of Argentina into the twenty-first century. These include some of the largest theropods and sauropods known (Chapters 9 and 11).

LE 3.1 Sample of lifespans of field-oriented i'l paleontologists and geologists mentioned in the chapter 'kr who were born before 1900, names listed in chronological order from date of birth. Mean age = 76.6 ± 14.2 years, median = 78 years (n = 29, all male subjects); 34% of sampled people were older than 80 years when they died.

Name

Born

Died

Lifespan

John Collins Warren

0 0

Post a comment