So, you found a new dinosaur?

Posted on March 3, 2016 by Liesl Ulrich-Verderber

Imagine you are a paleontologist out in the field and you come across the fossilized remains of a dinosaur, how do you know if your newly found fossils are a new dinosaur discovery?

This is where the world of holotypes steps in.

Elmer Riggs field assistant with the first brachiosaurus holotype humerus
Elmer Riggs field assistant with the brachiosaurus holotype humerus. Source: SVPOW

What is a holotype? In biology, a holotype is a single specimen that serves as the “gold standard” of a species. New discoveries are studied against holotypes to determine if a new species has been found. For paleontologists, though, this process is a little more difficult.

Most often, dinosaur skeletons are not found in their entirety, and with only pieces of an individual, the slightest details must be studied in order to understand the physiology of a specimen.

To explain the process by which we determine new species better, we bring you The Brain Scoop, a favorite YouTube channel of EWC contributor, Louisa Ulrich-Verderber.

I find it’s always best to explain science in terms of dinosaurs, so here is the story of the first brachiosaurus…

So, there you have your new dinosaur fact of the week!

I, like many people, had dreams of becoming a paleontologist when I grew up. Suffice to say, I did not follow this particular dream, but my love of dinosaurs has continued into my adulthood.

brachiosaurus herd illustration
Source: JAN SOVAK

Dinosaurs, for all ages of science lover, are an incredible introduction to some of the fundamental principles of biology, and in many ways physics and chemistry.

It seems our collective love of dinosaurs is spurred on by our desire for discovery. Paleontology is an amazing platform for education because it captures the imagination, and in so doing, it makes us ask better questions, take on new perspectives, and see our place on this planet in a more integrated way.

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Stay beautiful & keep laughing!

-Liesl

“Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.”-Victor Borge

Liesl can be found on Instagram @Liesl.UV