February 12, 2011

Darwin Day and Lincoln's Birthday

For more on these two important birthdays, see last year's post

Charles Darwin and Abraham Lincoln aren't the only folks of note born on February 12. Some other birthdays include:

Christina Ricci – 1980 – actress
Judy Blume – 1938 – author
Bill Russell – 1934 – basketball legend
Anna Pavlova – 1881 – ballerina
Barnum Brown – 1873 – paleontologist

Happy Birthday, Barnum Brown!

Quick, think of a dinosaur species name!

Even more quickly, name a carnivorous dinosaur!

If you are like most people, you probably thought of Tyrannosaurus rex after one or both of those prompts. This giant, fierce-looking meat-eater is one of the most recognizable and iconic dinosaurs and is part of modern popular culture. But you probably didn't know the name of the guy who found the first T. rex skeletons...until now.

Born on this day in 1873, Barnum Brown was named after the circus promoter P.T. Barnum. He grew up to be a paleontologist—a scientist who collects and studies fossils. It was Brown who discovered the first two partial skeletons of Tyrannosaurus rex, although some teeth and fragments had been found earlier. (They were not enough of a specimen to be recognized and named as a separate species.)

At the time of his discoveries, Brown was the assistant curator of the American Museum of Natural History. He found the T. rex fossils in Wyoming (in 1900) and in Montana (in 1902). Tyrannosaurus rex lived all over the western portion of North America about 67 to 65.5 million years ago.

Brown collected many, many more fossils of dinosaurs and other creatures as well. He and his team used a flatboat to float down the Red Deer River in Canada in the middle 1910s, looking for promising-looking fossil sites. I find it funny that another group of fossil hunters, the Sternberg family, tried to outdo them by hunting for fossil sites on the same stretch of river in rivalry that was apparently friendly!

How do we know what T. rex ate?

Check out the Enchanted Learning website for a lesson on dinosaur diets. 

For more on dinosaurs, try Planet Dinosaur

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