Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

Modern Dinosaur Discoveries


Modern Dinosaur Discoveries in China & Europe
Iguanodon skeleton on display at the Brussels Museum in 1883. Iguanodons were found in Spain by Madrid paleontologist Jose Luis Sanz and his colleagues.
Iguanodon skeleton on display at the Brussels Museum in 1883. Iguanodons were found in Spain by Madrid paleontologist Jose Luis Sanz and his colleagues.
Ann Ronan Picture Library

In China, the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s stopped most research, but in the mid-1970s there was an explosion of discoveries. Dinosaurs from the Lower Jurassic through the Late Cretaceous are now represented in China by excellent material. Paleontologists from the United States, Canada, and Europe visited China to examine the material and to exchange knowledge. The result was a new "Chinese dinosaur rush."

The Polish-Mongolian Paleontological Expeditions of the late 1960s and early 1970s returned to the Gobi Desert. Zofia Kielan-Jaworowska led the expeditions, and they were rewarded with the discovery of new kids of dinosaurs and more complete remains of other known dinosaurs. Inspired by the success of the Polish scientists, the USSR Academy of Sciences took over field work in the Gobi in the mid-1970s. Almost every year since, the Joint Soviet-Mongolian Paleontological Expeditions unearthed more dinosaur remains. The discoveries inspired the exchange of ideas between Chinese and Western paleontologists.

Eric Buffetaut participated in several recent discoveries. In the late 1970s, while searching for crocodile remains in Thailand, he and coworkers uncovered a huge dinosaur bed in the Upper Jurassic Sao Khua Formation. They found several partial skeletons of large plant-eaters, many scattered teeth of large predators, and the remains of a small meat-eater.

Because much of the Soviet Union is hard to reach, workers rarely discover dinosaurs there. Still, scientists from the Paleontological Institute of the USSR Academy of Sciences began to examine the dinosaur material in their collections. They also organized expeditions to regions south of the Ural Mountains, to the Caucasus, and to eastern Siberia.

Even England still yielded a new dinosaur find or two. Amateur fossil collector William J. Walker chanced upon a huge, foot-long dinosaur claw weathering out of a clay pit in Surrey. This new dinosaur, Baryonyx walkeri, revealed a new family of meat-eating dinosaurs.

Studies by Madrid paleontologist Jose Luis Sanz and his colleagues began to show how much Spain had to contribute to the study of dinosaurs. They found small and large predators, huge long-necked herbivores (including the new species Aragosaurus ischiaticus), small plant-eaters, large plant-eaters (Iguanodon), and armored dinosaurs (Hylaeosaurus). Topping off their work was the discovery at Las Hoyas of a new genus of Early Cretaceous fossil bird. This bird, which was between the "feathered dinosaur" Archaeopteryx and more modern birds, was a key to understanding bird evolution.

In the 1970s, French paleontologists discovered interesting Middle Cretaceous African dinosaurs near the Tenere Oasis in the southern Sahara Desert. Besides claws and teeth identified as Carcharodontosaurus, they found the skeletons of two new dinosaurs related to Iguanodon.


More to Explore