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Bone Wars

Bone Wars

The "Bone Wars" of the 1870's and other significant paleontologist in this tree.


Matches 1 to 18 of 18    » Thumbnails Only     » Slide Show

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1
Bone Wars.
Bone Wars.
Much like the California gold rush the 1870's brought on a period of lust driven dinosaur fossil hunting. The rules of zoology say whomever describes a new species first gets to name it. The whole driving force was to get to be the one who named the dinosaur.

Some of this was very sloppy. Part of it could be attributed to the fact that the science of paleontology hadn't matured but, much of it was just trampled to get there first.

There was no careful note taking and field diagrams. they didn't carefully scratching the specimens out of the earth. If explosives were the fast route then explosives were used. 
 
2
Marsh-Cope
Marsh-Cope
The two primary players in this bit of history were Othniel Charles Marsh and Edward Drinker Cope. Both were born into wealthy families and that gave them the freedom to follow their interests. They were educated in the United States and they met in Europe where they both went to further their education.

in spite of some obvious personality differences their mutual interest drew them together. Eventually that fell apart and bribery, theft, and the destruction of bones became a way of doing business as they attempted to out do the other.  
 
3
Copes Elasmosaurus.
Copes Elasmosaurus.
In 1868 Cope discovered the fossil of an aquatic reptile that he named Elasmosaurus. Paleontologist Joseph Leidy pointed out that Cope had drawn the skeleton with the head on the tail! Cope attempted to recall all copies of the article describing the creature and issue a corrected version.

A copy of the article came to the attention of Marsh, who made light of the mistake. He continued to make fun of the situation for years to come and whatever friendship existed between the two evaporated.

Synopsis of the Extinct Batrachia and Reptilia of North America. Part 1. By Edward D. Cope. McCalla & Stavely, Printers, Philadelphia. 1869 
 
4
Elasmosaurus Milwaukee.
Elasmosaurus Milwaukee.
A cast of the Elasmosaurus hanging at the entrance two the Milwaukee Public Museum. The head is at the end of a very long neck which Cope had mistaken for a tail.  
 
5
Marsh and his 1872 expedition.
Marsh and his 1872 expedition.
 
 
6
Brontosaurus Excelsus.
Brontosaurus Excelsus.
Marsh wasn't immune to errors. Both Marsh and Cope named some species multiple times. This was due to terse descriptions and the sloppiness that comes of the rush to be first. In 1879, when Marsh found the Brontosaurus fossil the head was missing. He took a head he found four miles away that he thought might be right and he stuck it on the Brontosaurus. The sloppy science is still being sorted out.

In 1903 it was reclassified as an Apatosaurus, a dinosaur Marsh discovered in 1877. Since the Apatosaurus was named first the more perfect name, Brontosaurus or "Thunder Lizard". was no more. That is scientifically speaking. Among the public the name stayed popular and some museums kept their displays labeled Brontosaurus to accommodate it.

In 2015 a British-Portuguese research team concluded that the Brontosaurus was a distinct from Apatosaurus so, Brontosaurus lives again (so to speak). Not all paleontologists agree with this so it appears the final chapter has not been written.

Picture from; The Dinosaurs of North America by Othniel Charles Marsh published by the Government Printing Office, 1896.  
 
7
Creosaurus.
Creosaurus.
The Creosaurus that marsh discovered in 1878 has been determined to be the same as the Allosaurus he discovered in 1877.

Picture from; The Dinosaurs of North America by Othniel Charles Marsh published by the Government Printing Office, 1896.  
 
8
Creosaurus Skull.
Creosaurus Skull.
Picture from; The Dinosaurs of North America by Othniel Charles Marsh published by the Government Printing Office, 1896.  
 
9
Triceratops.
Triceratops.
An incomplete Triceratops skull was sent to Marsh in 1887. He dismissed it as being part of some type of Bison. It wasn't until the next year that he realized the parts belonged to a horned dinosaur and he named the species.

Picture from; The Dinosaurs of North America by Othniel Charles Marsh published by the Government Printing Office, 1896.  
 
10
Stegosaurus.
Stegosaurus.
Picture from; The Dinosaurs of North America by Othniel Charles Marsh published by the Government Printing Office, 1896.  
 
11
Henry Fairfield Osborn
Henry Fairfield Osborn
President of the American Museum of Natural History for 25 years. He was responsible for the naming of Tyrannosaurus Rex, the Velociraptor and more.

This awesome artwork by Pelycosaur24 of deviantart.com contrasts the reality against the fiction that Jurassic Park gave us.

 
 
12
Barnum Brown.
Barnum Brown.
Barnum Brown worked for the American Museum of Natural History for 44 years. He is best known for finding the first Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton. 
 
13
Mignon Talbot.
Mignon Talbot.
In 1910 Mignon Talbot became the first woman to discover a non-bird dinosaur, the Podokesaurus. This discovery made Talbot the first woman to find and describe a dinosaur.

Podokesaurus is shown here in silhouette with a human and a cat for scale.  
 
14
John Ostrom
John Ostrom
John Ostrom is credited with bringing fourth the Dinosaur Renaissance. The period between the Bone Wars and the Dinosaur Renaissance has been referred to as the Dinosaur Doldrums.

John's theories that dinosaurs may have been warm blooded and may have evolved into birds inspired a lot of people. The increased interest that was triggered in the late 1960's carries on to the present. It has led to an explosion in the number of known dinosaur species. 
 
15
Edwin H. Colbert
Edwin H. Colbert
Edwin wrote over 20 books and hundreds of scientific articles. In 1969 his discovery of a Lystrosaurus fossil in Antarctica helped prove the theory of continental drift. 
 
16
Dinosaur Extinction.
Dinosaur Extinction.
In 1980 Physicist Luis Walter Alvarez working with his son Walter postulated the Alvarez Hypothesis that proposed the dinosaurs were wiped out by an asteroid that impacted Earth. Since that time more and more evidence has been uncovered that supports his idea.  
 
17
Fictional Dinosaurs.
Fictional Dinosaurs.
Dinosaur movies are cool. Even if they get some of it wrong. Here's a nod to the folks in this tree that have contributed to dino-entertainment. 
 
18
Who won the Bone Wars?
Who won the Bone Wars?
Some would say Marsh did as he discovered the most dinosaurs. If you were to count non-dinosaur species Cope had a bigger total. Putting a number to it isn't practical because as their finds are studied further the numbers continue to change.

Some would say the world won because no matter how primitive their science was the wonder of the dinosaurs was revealed and preserved.

As someone who once opened a box labeled "Kenner" and found a complete T-Rex skeleton, the author figures he won when he found all of these paleontologist in his family tree. 
 


Linked to Luis Walter Alvarez (22726), Barnum Brown (22722), Edwin Harris Colbert (22729), Othniel Charles Marsh (22721), John Harold Ostrom (22727), Mignon Talbot (22738)