Sinosauropteryx - History of Discovery

History of Discovery

See also: Origin of birds

The first fossil specimen of the dinosaur later named Sinosauropteryx prima was uncovered in August 1996 by Li Yumin. Yumin was a farmer and part-time fossil hunter who often prospected around Liaoning Province to acquire fossils to sell to individuals and museums. Yumin recognized the unique quality of the specimen, which was separated into two slabs, and sold the slabs to two separate museums in China: the National Geological Museum in Beijing, and the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Paleontology. The director of the Beijing museum, Ji Qiang, recognized the importance of the find, as did visiting Canadian palaeontologist Phil Currie and artist Michael Skrepnick, who became aware of the fossil by chance as they explored the Beijing museum's collections after leading a fossil tour of the area during the first week of October, 1996. Currie recognized the significance of the fossil immediately. As The New York Times quoted him, "When I saw this slab of silt stone mixed with volcanic ash in which the creature is embedded, I was bowled over."

Chinese authorities initially barred photographs of the specimen from publication. However, Currie brought a photograph to the 1996 meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, causing crowds of palaeontologists to gather and discuss the new discovery. The news reportedly left palaeontologist John Ostrom, who in the 1970s had pioneered the theory that birds evolved from dinosaurs, "in a state of shock." Ostrom later joined an international team of researchers who gathered in Beijing to examine the fossils; other team members included feather expert Alan Brush, fossil bird expert Larry Martin, and Peter Wellnhofer, an expert on the early bird Archaeopteryx.

Read more about this topic:  Sinosauropteryx

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