Young Turks and old turkeys

"It's funny," University of Oregon paleopedologist Greg Retal-lack once said, "how quickly today's 'Young Turks' become tomorrow's old turkeys." The young, fire-breathing revolutionaries themselves become advocates of established dogma, as, even in their own lifetimes, their ideas are challenged and swept aside by a righteous, new, young, aggressive generation of scientists. It was that way in Richard Owen's day, and it is that way now. Here we highlight the careers of four of the currently active generation of vertebrate paleontologists.

As we have seen, the 1970s were a time of intellectual ferment in paleontology, and for the dinosaur-loving public, nobody embodied those fresh winds of change more than Robert T. Bakker (b. 1945; Figure 14.10a). In a field historically known for bookish indifference to fame, Bakker has been a ubiquitous media presence; so much so that he was recognizably caricatured as Dr Robert Burke in Jurassic Park II. Bearded, long-haired, and dressed for battle in his field-ready best1 (belying degrees from Yale and Harvard), Bakker was filled with amazing ideas about birds, dinosaurs and their world. A highly competent prose stylist (described in Harper's Magazine as "by far the most gifted writer in his profession"2) and a talented illustrator, Bakker was distinctive, articulate and out to change ideas. And with his forcible advocacy of endothermy in dinosaurs, he surely has. As he has grown older, Bakker has continued to be a magnetic personality, and is the author of a thought-provoking popular treatment of dinosaurs, Dinosaur Heresies, as well as a novel about dinosaurs, Raptor Red.

Equally informal of manner and no less intellectually endowed, but somewhat lower in profile is Bakker's contemporary, John R. "Jack" Horner (b. 1946; Figure B14.9.1). Horner lacks formal advanced degrees; yet, it would be hard to find a more creative (he is a MacArthur "genius award" recipient) and accomplished paleontologist. As we have seen, it was Horner who first recognized extended parental care in Maiasaura; it has been Horner who has, most recently, led the field in understanding bone histology and its relationship to dinosaur growth and metabolism; it was in Horner's laboratory that proteins from T. rex were first extracted (see Chapters 9 and 10, and Box 11.1).

1. Including an iconic battered hat that pre-dated that of Indiana Jones - but not that of Roy Chapman Andrews!

2. Silverberg, R. 1981. Beastly debates. Harper's Magazine, October, 1981, pp. 68-78.

Figure B14.9.1. Paleontologist extraordinaire Jack Horner, doing what he does best.

Horner is a superb field paleontologist; rare is the summer that passes when he is not out prospecting and collecting dinosaurs. His laconic, plain-spoken manner, reputed to be the inspiration for Dr Alan Grant in the film Jurassic Park, belies a canny, sophisticated, approach to almost all he undertakes, whether it be building the Museum ofthe Rockies (Bozeman, Montana, USA) into a world-class paleontological museum and an important center for cutting-edge histological research (both living and fossil); publishing well over 100 research papers on virtually every subject pertaining to Dinosauria; or writing a best-selling account of the development of his ideas on maternal care in Maiasaura (Digging Dinosaurs). Jack Horner continues to be a dominant and creative force in the field of vertebrate paleontology, using his own successes to make opportunities for other younger scientists.

Somewhat younger than Horner and Bakker is the Curator of the Division of Paleontology at the American Museum of Natural History (New York), Mark A. Norell (b. 1957; Figure B14.9.2). Norell's studies have been wide-ranging, including contributing to the development of the concept of "ghost taxa" (see Box 13.2), the discovery and description of the unusual theropod Mononykus (see Figure 11.8), the discovery ofthe first embryo of a theropod dinosaur, and the first clear "proof"

Figure B14.9.2. Mark Norell, Curator of Paleontology at the American Museum of Natural History (New York).

that dinosaurs nested on their eggs (Oviraptor; see Figure 9.25). Norell has led expeditions to the Gobi Desert for the past 18 years, during the course ofwhich he discovered and described the dinosaurs Shuvuuia, Apsaravis, Byronosaurus, and Achllony-chus, among other vertebrate fossils. He has even co-written several award-winning books, including Discovering Dinosaurs (1995) and Unearthing the Dragon (2005).

Our brief sampling of some of dinosaur paleontology's Young Turks would surely be incomplete without some recounting ofthe exploits ofthe University of Chicago's redoubtable Paul Sereno (b. 1957; see Figure B14.9.3). Sereno gives lie to the idea that they don't make paleontologists like they used to. Handsome and dashing (he was, after all, one of People magazine's "50 Most Beautiful People," Newsweek's "100 People to Watch for the Next Millennium," and isqmre magazine's "100 Best People in the World"), Sereno has made it his business to travel to exotic locales (Egypt, Niger, Morocco, Argentina, China) and collect exotic fossils. Therein lies quite the list, including Afrovenator abakensis (a large theropod), Carcharodontosaurus saharicus (another large theropod, possibly larger than Tyrannosaurus), Deltadromeus agilis and Rugops primus (two more large theropods!), Rajasaurus narmadensis (a large, crested theropod), Herrerasaurus ischigualastensis and Eoraptor

Paul Sereno Young
Figure B14.9.3. Paul Sereno in the waning sun of the Sahara Desert, digging up something not too dinosaur-like. He writes of this picture, "I have fallen prey to digging up 100 fossil humans in the Sahara - they got in the way of my dinosaurs!"

Junensis (two ofthe most primitive dinosaurs known; see Figure 111.3b and c), Jobaria tiguidensis (a 20+ m sauropod), the 13 m dinosaur-munching Saharan crocodile Sarcosuchus imperator, and the pisivorous large theropod Suchomimus tenerensis.

Despite Sereno's evident predilection for large theropods, he has made significant contributions to understanding the relationships among all dinosaurs; a look among the many cladograms in this book shows how thorough and deep his contribution to dinosaur relationships truly is. His own summary says it all:

I see paleontology as 'adventure with a purpose.' How else to describe a science that allows you to romp in remote corners ofthe globe, resurrecting gargantuan creatures that have never been seen? And the trick to big fossil finds? You've got to be able to go where no one has gone before.3

3. This extract is from http://www.paulsereno.org/bio.htm (last reviewed May 2008).

to competitive superiority, but rather to extinctions that had liberated ecospace for dinosaurs to colonize.

Today, dinosaurs continue to be studied in a variety of ways (see Box 14.9): through the discovery and description of new forms; as biological entities functioning in ancient ecosystems; via analyses of the large-scale evolution of the group; through histological and even molecular analyses; and from the standpoint of evolution and development.

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