Lamanna ’97 Has Big Find – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
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Lamanna ’97 Has Big Find

Matt Lamanna ’97 is a member of the international excavation team that unearthed skeletons of one of the largest animals to ever walk the Earth. He is also the second author on the paper about the dinosaur, which they named Dreadnoughtus schrani. The bones belonged to two partial skeletons, with that of the larger individual being much more complete than the other. They were extracted during digs in southern Patagonia, Argentina, in Santa Cruz Province, between 2005 and 2009. Recently, a number of media outlets interviewed Lamanna about Dreadnoughtus, including NPR’s “Weekend Edition Sunday,” with Lynn Neary. That interview can be heard online. Lamanna, who is assistant curator of vertebrate paleontology at Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, has been involved with the Dreadnoughtus project from the beginning. He was part of the expedition that discovered the quarry in which the fossils were buried, invited to join by his colleague and good friend Ken Lacovara of Drexel University who was leading the dig. The site was selected because a few other dinosaur fossils had been discovered in the same general area. The first Dreadnoughtus bone discovered was a huge femur, or thigh bone. “A bit of that was poking out of the ground. Our team dug around it and uncovered the whole bone. Even better, when we dug below the lower end of the femur, the shin bones were still there, right where they would have been when the dinosaur was alive,” explains Lamanna. “Anytime you’ve got dinosaur bones in life position – articulated – that’s something to get excited about. We kept digging and finding more bones, and thankfully the rest is history.” The bones of the two Dreadnoughtus skeletons have been digitally modeled in 3D, which will better enable paleontologists to study them despite geographic boundaries and the limitations of the animal’s massive size. “In many ways, the digital models of Dread’s bones are actually more conducive to study than the bones themselves. For instance, the femur weighs hundreds of pounds. If it’s lying on a shelf and you want to examine the other side, you can either round up eight people and try to flip it over (and risk breaking it or hurting somebody in the process), or you can turn on your computer and rotate our digital model of this bone with a flick of a mouse,” explains Lamanna, who has been involved in a number of discoveries of new dinosaurs in his career. He has named or co-named nine new species to date and several more are on the way. Right after his trip to Santa Cruz Province in 2005, Lamanna flew north to Chubut Province, in central Patagonia, Argentina, to work with his long-time friend and collaborator Rubén Martínez and his team from the Universidad Nacional de la Patagonia at another dinosaur quarry in that province. “That site yielded bones of another new sauropod (long-necked plant-eating dinosaur) that we ultimately named Katepensaurus, as well as part of the skeleton of a very cool meat-eating dinosaur that we’re still studying,” explains Lamanna. In addition to the two Patagonian digs, Lamanna was also working in China in 2005. “In the years since we discovered Dreadnoughtus, I’ve been involved with projects in Australia, Antarctica, Greenland, and other places in Argentina,” he says. “I’ve been very fortunate to have had a lot of exciting things going on over the years. I’m almost always working on multiple projects at once.” Additionally, when the bulk of the scientific study of Dreadnoughtus happened in 2013, he was simultaneously studying Anzu (another new species of dinosaur nicknamed the “Chicken from Hell”) at Carnegie Museum of Natural History, which purchased the fossils just prior to Lamanna’s joining the staff. Lamanna graduated with high honors in biology and geoscience from Hobart, and went on to graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania, where he studied dinosaur paleontology in the Department of Earth and Environmental Science and earned a master of science and his Ph.D. “Don Woodrow, Jim Ryan, Brooks McKinney, Beth Newell, and other members of the HWS departments of geoscience and biology past and present believed in me from the start, and for an aspiring scientist, that’s a very important thing,” says Lamanna.

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