Scroll to the bottom of this item to listen to Lamanna’s President’s Forum talk as broadcast on WEOS.
Monday night’s President’s Forum began with the question that drives paleontology. “What effect did the changes in Earth’s continents have on the evolution of dinosaurs? Finding the answer requires paleontologists to fill in huge unknown periods of the fossil record from sites across the globe. No easy task, but Matt Lamanna ’97, the evening’s guest speaker, is the perfect person for the job.
Lamanna’s natural enthusiasm for his work created an instant rapport with the crowd in Albright Auditorium as newly discovered creatures from Earth’s distant past came to life on the screen behind him. “What’s your favorite dinosaur? a member of the audience asked. “When I was a kid: triceratops, Lamanna said with a chuckle. “Now I prefer the ones that I get to discover.
And discover them he has. Lamanna’s dig sites around the globe have been astonishingly fruitful, evidence of masterful talent and more than a little luck. In Egypt, the team’s biggest find came from a colleague’s failure to properly read a map. Hours spent wandering in the desert eventually yielded the bones of one of the largest animals ever to walk the earth – the giant sauropod dinosaur Paralititan stromeri.
With a length of 80-plus feet and weighing in at nearly 50 tons, the discovery of this long-necked plant-eater was hailed as one of the most significant paleontological finds of recent history. In Argentina, Lamanna and his team unearthed a frightening ancient hunter, megaraptor, whose claws were each more than a foot long. Another killer, titanosaur, was larger than the iconic Tyrannosaurus Rex.
“People think that I’m exaggerating when I talk about the size of these discoveries, he told the crowd. “I’m not. They’re huge, but it’s a blessing and a curse. It might take weeks to excavate one bone!
Smaller, but arguably just as important discoveries came at his latest digs in China, where Lamanna hoped to find fossils of ancient birds. The specimens are exceedingly rare, not being well disposed to preservation. But Lamanna’s team hit a jackpot, uncovering more than 40 ancient birds in its first season and filling in a critical part of their evolutionary family tree.
In addition to his field work and duties as assistant curator, Lamanna is the lead scientific advisor on Dinosaurs in Their World, the Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s forthcoming exhibit that will nearly triple the size of the Museum’s former Dinosaur Hall. Scheduled to open in the fall, this exhibit will range over 25,552 square feet, enough space to display at least 15 mounted, mostly original dinosaur skeletons and more than 200 other ancient plants and animals in a way that captures them in their habitats as never before.
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.
A story previewing his talk was printed in the Saturday, March 3 edition of The Post-Standard; read Dinosaur hunter to return to CNY. Another preview was printed in the next day’s edition of the Finger Lakes Times; read Hobart alum to talk about dinosaurs.
The Finger Lakes Times’ story about the talk is available at Waterloo grad returns to HWS, presents findings.
Listen to Lamanna’s talk, courtesy of WEOS, by clicking on the “play” button below.