After nearly two months of work in Antarctica, an expedition of the Antarctic Peninsula Paleontology Project (AP3) led by Matt Lamanna ’97 has returned with “a wealth of fossils…that likely represent several new species and further illuminate one of the more mysterious moments in Earth’s history,” as the science magazine Discover reports.
Antarctica offers a veritable time capsule, allowing scientists glimpses of critical yet not well-understood pieces of ancient history through the preserved remains of plants and animals that lived on the now-frozen continent between 40 and 100 million years ago.
“One of the most exciting parts of the trip was that we were searching for fossils in places that had hardly ever been looked at before,” said Lamanna, who is assistant curator of vertebrate paleontology at Carnegie Museum of Natural History, which houses one of the top five dinosaur collections in the world. “Discovery was the lifeblood of the expedition, so whether it was new fossils or an outcrop of rocks that hadn’t been explored before, those are the things that were the most fulfilling.”
Since 2012, Lamanna has served as the lead Principal Investigator and project director of the AP3. At the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh, Lamanna’s research focuses on Cretaceous-aged dinosaurs from the southern hemisphere continents and the origin of birds from dinosaur ancestors during the Mesozoic Era.
As he told Discover regarding his recent discovery of a dinosaur fossil in Antarctica, “I’ve found dinosaurs in different places around the world, but I don’t think I’ve ever been prouder of a single dinosaur bone than I was of this one. It’s simply because dinosaur bones are so incredibly rare in Antarctica that finding a little tiny piece of bone in this environment was as important to me, personally and professionally, as finding bones in other places where I’ve worked before.”
Once returned to the U.S., the significant collection of fossils will be preserved and analyzed for years to come.
In 2002, Lamanna was featured in the A&E documentary The Lost Dinosaurs of Egypt for one of the most significant finds in recent paleontological history, his co-discovery of one of the largest land animals that ever lived, the giant sauropod (long-necked plant-eating dinosaur) Paralititan stromeri. Later, in 2007 and 2008, he was the lead scientific adviser on the country’s third largest exhibit of mounted original dinosaur skeletons, Dinosaurs in Their Time at Carnegie Museum of Natural History, where he helped to display dinosaurs in the context of the most current research on the Mesozoic. In early 2014, he led the description of the bizarre bird-like dinosaur Anzu wyliei, better known as the “Chicken from Hell,” and more recently, he co-named three new sauropod species from Argentina, Dreadnoughtus schrani, Notocolossus gonzalezparejasi, and Sarmientosaurus musacchioi.
Before his position at the Carnegie Museum, Lamanna launched his career as a biology and geoscience double-major and received the Sigma Xi Scientific Research Society prize at HWS. He earned his Master of Science and Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. He has visited HWS multiple times for public lectures and presented “Hunting Dinosaurs on Four Continents” in the President’s Forum Series to share his global expeditions.
The recent expedition to Antarctica was also covered in: