Lamanna ’97 and the “Holy Grail” Dinosaur Discovery - Hobart and William Smith Colleges
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Lamanna ’97 and the “Holy Grail” Dinosaur Discovery

Dino_1Matt Lamanna ’97, assistant curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, coauthored a study published in January that details the discovery of a new species of large dinosaur. The fossil remains are uniquely intact and help clarify hypotheses about the historical biogeography of giant sauropods.

Mansourasaurus shahinae, a long-necked plant-eating dinosaur that lived in what is now the Sahara Desert, is “the most complete terrestrial vertebrate from the post-Cenomanian Cretaceous of the African mainland,” as Lamanna and his coauthors write in the study published in Nature Ecology and Evolution.

Or, as Lamanna told USA Today, “This was the Holy Grail — a well-preserved dinosaur from the end of the age of dinosaurs in Africa — that we paleontologists had been searching for for a long, long time.”

The find came in 2013 in the Dakhla Oasis of the Egyptian Western Desert; its location and age, the study argues, “counter hypotheses that dinosaur faunas of the African mainland were completely isolated during the post-Cenomanian Cretaceous [i.e. the time interval that extended from 94 to 66 million years ago].”

For Lamanna, as USA Today reported, “the discovery was ‘the culmination of a search that’s occupied almost half my life.’”

Considered to be a pivotal contributor to the understanding of how dinosaurs and their environments evolved through time, Lamanna has travelled to all seven continents on paleontological expeditions.

At Hobart, Lamanna graduated cum laude in biology and geoscience and was awarded the Sigma Xi Scientific Research Society prize. After graduation, he went on to study dinosaur paleontology in the Department of Earth and Environmental Science at the University of Pennsylvania, earning his M.S. and Ph.D.

In 2000, while pursuing his Ph.D., Lamanna travelled to Egypt in search of a lost dinosaur site first discovered by a German paleontologist in 1911. There, he and fellow Penn graduate students discovered a new species they named Paralititan stromeri (“tidal giant”). Their expedition was chronicled in the two-hour A&E documentary The Lost Dinosaurs of Egypt and a book by the same name published by Random House. The research received coverage in many major national and international publications and programs, The New York Times, the BBC, National Geographic and others. An article about the find also appeared in the preeminent journal Science.

Lamanna now serves as the principal dinosaur researcher at Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, which houses one of the world’s largest dinosaur collections. Hired in 2004, he became the first full-time dinosaur paleontologist on the Museum’s staff since the early 20th century.

Lamanna has visited HWS multiple times for public lectures and gave a presentation in the President’s Forum Series to share his global expeditions. He has also advised dinosaur exhibitions for other institutions, including the Miami Science Museum and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. He has lent his expertise to a wide variety of print and broadcast media, including the Discovery Channel, the Science Channel, A&E, the History Channel, PBS, Fox News, CNN, ABC and NOVA.

Read more about Lamanna’s career and life of consequence.

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