Kenneth Lacovara: Hunting for dinosaurs showed me our place in the universe
Kenneth Lacovara - Paleontologist
In his quest to understand the largest dinosaurs to have walked the Earth, Lacovara blends exploration with the latest imaging and modeling techniques from engineering to medicine. Full bio
that all paleontologists use.
must be sedimentary rocks.
must be naturally exposed.
and get yourself on the ground,
that you will find fossils.
rocks of the right age,
really old rocks of the Paleozoic --
and a quarter-billion years old.
you won't find them.
rocks of the Mesozoic,
of the right age at this point,
are written in rocks,
geologists would rejoice.
offer every possible insult
soon after being written.
of long-gone landscapes.
under the advancing sands of time
our dead, rocky companion --
with creative and destructive forces
by the Apollo astronauts
of the Solar System.
face the perils of a living lithosphere.
of mutilation, compression,
are incomplete and disheveled.
in the rock record
until relatively recently.
for geologists --
learned to record their thoughts
inscrutable to humans.
of our own planet
of the 19th century
of James Hutton's "Theory of the Earth,"
reveals no vestige of a beginning
of William Smith's map of Britain,
certain types of rocks might occur.
we should be in the Jurassic,"
we should find the Cretaceous."
a fossil in a sedimentary rock,
by magma, like a granite,
that's been heated and squeezed.
particularly lived in deserts;
that's a desert today,
too many plants covering up the rocks,
exposing new bones at the surface.
sticking out of the rock.
in Southern Patagonia.
on the ground there
you'll find fossils or not;
that is scientifically significant?
a fourth part to our formula,
paleontologists as possible.
that's relatively unexplored,
of not only finding fossils
that's new to science.
for finding dinosaurs,
sedimentary rocks of the right age,
that bone was isolated.
and there wasn't another bone around.
the next year for more.
of that next field season,
really brutal field seasons,
of that great beast wrapping around me.
the new species of dinosaur,
from snout to tail.
at the shoulder,
it weighed 65 tons.
"Was Dreadnoughtus bigger than a T. rex?"
about being a paleontologist
you get to name it.
that these giant, plant-eating dinosaurs
lumbering platters of meat
and they can be territorial --
or a rhino or a water buffalo.
far more people than do the grizzly bears.
would have had nothing to fear.
would've had to have been
radiate heat into the environment,
as a super-efficient feeding mechanism.
in one place and with that neck
while expending very few.
a bulldog-like wide-gait stance,
when you're literally as big as a house,
ribs break and pierce lungs.
in life -- even once.
Dreadnoughtus carcass was buried
of bacteria, worms and insects,
like the entombing rock.
of sediment accumulated,
weighed in like a stony glove
each bone in a stabilizing embrace.
everlasting and unchanging
for another 12 million years
in a fiery apocalypse.
evolved the odd trick of sentient thought.
particularly fast or strong.
of territorial conquest,
and metalworking and painting
take 12 particularly excellent apes
Homo sapiens on the planet,
trod on the grave of the magnificent titan
of Southern Patagonia.
entering the fossil record
the improbable becomes the probable.
living and dying on an old planet
an asteroid hits the Earth
and it's the one that we have.
was not inevitable.
of that asteroid far from Earth
our planet by a wide margin.
the dinosaurs were wiped out,
for the modern world as we know it
already enjoyed by the dinosaurs.
led us to this very particular reality.
lay underground for 77 million years.
of the Missouri River
than a gurgle of water
in a boulder in a pasture,
runs a few hundred yards
of the Missouri, near St. Louis,
that that river is a big deal.
and look at the Missouri,
allow us to see it as anything special.
to anything special,
and a thousand more solar systems
both amazing and amazingly improbable,
and they would not have our history.
that we could've had.
did we ever get a good one.
and pill bugs the length of a car
fifth mass extinction,
through no fault of their own.
and they didn't have a choice.
tells us that our place on this planet
and potentially fleeting.
an environmental disaster
that is so broad and so severe,
the sixth extinction.
About the speaker:Kenneth Lacovara - Paleontologist
In his quest to understand the largest dinosaurs to have walked the Earth, Lacovara blends exploration with the latest imaging and modeling techniques from engineering to medicine.
Why you should listen
Paleontologist Kenneth Lacovara famously unearthed some of the largest dinosaurs ever to walk our planet, including the super-massive Dreadnoughtus, which at 65 tons weighs more than seven T.Rex.
When he's not excavating fossils from far-flung locations, Lacovara works on the cutting edge of applying 21st-century technology to the study of dinosaurs. By using 3D imaging, 3D printing, robotics, and medical modeling techniques, his work is helping to shift our perspective of giant herbivorous dinosaurs from their historic portrayal as hapless lumbering prey to that of fearsome, hulking, hyper-efficient eating machines.
Lacovara led the effort to create the Rowan University Fossil Park in suburban Mantua Township, New Jersey. The quarry preserves a rich cache of marine fossils that Lacovara is using to shed light on the calamitous events that wiped out the dinosaurs.
Kenneth Lacovara | Speaker | TED.com