Lecture: Finding the World’s Most Interesting Dinosaur

The Gobi Desert of China has produced some of the most important dinosaur discoveries in recent years, and one of the most successful series of expeditions to this area was led by Dr. James M. Clark, along with his colleague Dr. Xu Xing of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. On September 13, The George Washington University Confucius Institute and the Department of Biology co-hosted a presentation by  Dr. Clark entitled, “Finding the World’s Most Interesting Dinosaur.” Dr. Clark presented how their expeditions unearthed fascinating new dinosaurs, including the bizarre Limusaurus inextricabilis that was trapped in a “death pit.” The was the GW Confucius Institute’s first time partnering with the Department of Biology. 

Dr. Clark was one of the first American paleontologists to discover dinosaur bones in China. During the lecture, he explained in simple language interesting experiences on how he explored Xinjiang province with other Chinese scientists to discover the fossils. From 2001, Dr. Clark along with Chinese Academy of Sciences of Vertebrates, and Dr. Xu Xing and Dr. Zhao Xi from the Research Institute of Hominids formed a US-China scientific expedition. For several years, they worked hard in Xinjiang’s Urumqi and Turpan city’s Five-Colored Bay (north of Dzungar basin), conducting research and observation. It was here that the research team gathered large amounts of geological and paleontological data, ultimately discovering ancestors of horned dinosaurs (Yinlong), which was an important finding to better understand ceratopsians and pachycephalosaurs. They also discovered Guanlong Wucai, the older and most primitive Tyrannosaurus Rex, which told them that the T-rex evolved from something with long arms, like the velociraptor. The most important finding was the fascinating new dinosaur, the bizarre Limusaurus Inextricabilis that was trapped in a “death pit.” 

Dr. Clark believes that Xinjiang’s Dzungar Basin is an important area to research the Jurassic period. Up until today, people had little knowledge of this period, beyond knowing that modern species developed from and originated in the Jurassic period. He expressed that going forward he will lead more students on fossil-finding expeditions to explore Xinjiang’s deserts as well as the Gobi desert and countryside. Following the lecture, the audience had an opportunity to ask Dr. Clark questions.

当地时间9月13日,美国乔治•华盛顿大学孔子学院与该校生物学系联合举办了以《发现世界上最有趣的恐龙》为题的科普讲座。这是该孔院首次与生物学系开展合作,生物系教授詹姆斯•克拉克(James M. Clark)担任主讲人。

詹姆斯·克拉克是最早在中国开展恐龙化石研究的美国古生物学家之一。讲座中,他以通俗易懂的语言与现场听众分享了他与中国科学家在新疆沙漠合作发掘恐龙化石、开展古生物研究的有趣经历。

自2001年起,克拉克就与中国科学院古脊椎动物与古人类研究所研究员徐星、赵喜进等成立中美联合考察队,多年来坚持在新疆乌鲁木齐和吐鲁番以北准噶尔盆地的五彩湾进行野外考察。在这里,研究团队采集到大量的地质学和古生物学资料,发现了著名的早期恐龙种类角龙的祖先“当氏隐龙”以及霸王龙的祖先“五彩湾冠龙”。

克拉克认为,新疆准噶尔盆地是研究晚侏罗世早期的重要地区。迄今为止,人们对这一时期所知甚少,而现代物种正是在侏罗纪发生、发展的。他表示今后会带领更多的学生到新疆的沙漠、戈壁继续从事野外考察,寻找化石。

讲座结束后,听众们纷纷提出自己感兴趣的问题,克拉克耐心地解答了他们的提问。

 

Speaker Bio:

Research in his laboratory addresses the evolution of extinct land vertebrates (tetrapods), especially those from fossil deposits of the Age of Dinosaurs (the Mesozoic).  This research is grounded in the fossils discovered by expeditions he have organized or been part of, and focuses on the evolutionary relationships of dinosaurs, crocodylians, pterosaurs, and lepidosaurs.  Questions addressed by his lab include which extinct groups are most closely related to their living relatives (birds, crocodylians, sphenodontids, squamates, turtles), what the fossils tell us about the transition to the living group, and how fossils inform us about the early evolution of these groups.