University of Calgary professor Darla Zelenitsky and PhD student Jared Voris with fossil fragments of Thanatotheristes. (Photo: Royal Tyrrell Museum)
Citizen scientists essential to further discoveries
According to Brown, the most intriguing thing about the research is what more could have been known about Thanatotheristes had the fossils been better preserved.
“The specimen De Groot found obviously came from a skull that would have been completely put together at some point,” he says.
“What intrigues me is what would have happened if the specimen was found 20, 50 or 100 years ago. How much more complete would it have been, and how much more of the animal would we have known?”
Zelenitsky says the only way to know more is to keep looking.
“The issue is that a lot of these animals or species just aren’t preserved or haven’t been found yet by a paleontologist,” she says.
Brown agrees, adding that ordinary citizens can contribute by keeping an eye out for what they think could be fossils.
“A lot of our really important scientific discoveries in the last several decades have been made by members of the public and this is no exception,” he says.
“For every paleontologist, there are millions of people around, walking their dog, going for hikes, fishing in the river. If you find something you think is interesting, it probably is, so take a picture and report that to a museum because you might end up finding a new species of dinosaur like John De Groot.”