Palaeontological Predictions for 2008

As people all around the world start a new year, this is often a good time to consider what changes, developments and news stories we might expect over the next twelve months.  For scientists involved with studying ancient life and attempting to piece together our knowledge of pre-history, 2008 will no doubt be filled with exciting discoveries.  Just for a bit of fun, the team at Everything Dinosaur has compiled a list of predictions, trying to guess what the next year will bring.

We are certainly living in a “golden age” for palaeontology.  New parts of the world are being explored and with the advancement of techniques such as electron microscopy and CAT scans we can gain much more information from the fossils already found.

Here in no particular order are our predictions for 2008:

More Aussie Polar Dinosaurs will come to Light

Study of Dinosaurs within what was a polar environment will continue on the rugged coast of Victoria, Australia.  With the help of sponsors and the regular band of dedicated volunteers from the universities of Australia, it is likely that more dinosaurs and other vertebrates such as the large amphibious Labyrinthodonts will be discovered.  A number of small Ornithopods have already been described perhaps evidence will be uncovered to provide a clue as to how these little animals could survive such cold conditions – evidence of a feathered Hypsilophodont perhaps?

“Walking with” Tour will shake London

The European tour of the “Walking with” Dinosaurs is scheduled to take place in 2008.  This spectacular, live stage show featuring animatronic dinosaurs will no doubt prove to be a huge hit in Europe.  Not too difficult a prediction to make, bearing in mind the reception this tour has already received in Australia and north America.  We were lucky enough to get the chance to review one of the early shows on the Australian leg of the show’s world tour and then to write about the first shows in America.

To read about the tour: Monster Show Rocks America

More Dinosaur TV

The next series of ITVs “Primeval” is scheduled to start in the spring (UK).  Seven episodes have been made and this time viewers will see Dinosaurs.  In addition, expect more documentaries from the likes of the Discovery Channel and National Geographic.  These type of programmes, providing an insight into a specific set of finds or relating a theory about a dinosaur’s demise are ratings winners.  Expect more controversy when television programmes are screened before all the palaeontological evidence has been collated and peer reviewed.

More Dubious “fossils” on Auction Web Sites

As more people gain access to the Internet and speedy downloads with the aid of broadband expect the number of fossils that appear on auction websites to increase.  Many of these items are genuine fossils from respected dealers and private individuals, but as prices for fossils go up expect the trend for misrepresentation and dodgy deals to increase.  It is a fine line between a “restored” fossil, a “repaired” fossil and a “reconstructed” fossil.  We have come across many examples of Spinosaur teeth from north Africa which on closer examination don’t appear to be as perfect as promised.  Expect more disappointed purchasers when they realise that the massive Theropod tooth they spent a fortune on; bidding for it on an auction site; turns out to be a collection of tooth shards skilfully glued together to mimic a perfect specimen.  Expect more disappointed collectors when they realise the large fossil tooth they saw a picture of on-line turns out to have had its length increased somewhat by the glueing of lots of sand around the base to replicate the root portion.  Such practices will no doubt continue into 2008 and beyond.

More Specimens to Private Collectors

2007 was marked by an increase in the number of large fossils auctioned off and being sold to wealthy individuals.  Complete skeletons of prehistoric animals, rare skulls and such like have found their way via auctions and sales into private collections.  As the market value of such specimens increases so this trend is expected to continue.   Some types of fossil are seen as an investment, with stock markets fluctuating, money is finding a refuge in more abstract investment markets – paintings, fine wines and relics from pre-history.  Dinosaurs are “trendy” collecting them has become the pastime of celebrities, famous and wealthy people wanting to own something a little different and unusual – such as a Sauropod femur or a Tyrannosaur skull.

Calls for UK Museums to Charge for Entry

In the late 1990’s it was decided by the UK government to allow free access to many of the country’s national museums and monuments.  By providing free entry it was argued that people would not be deterred from learning about their heritage and this would increase the opportunities to learn for those less well-off than others.  Certainly, attendance at many museums, the natural history ones for example, has increased.  Museums are able to apply for grants, subsidy and subventions to help fund their activities and research, but as costs rise and the political wind changes, this policy of free entry may well be challenged in the next twelve months.

Chinese Dinosaur Discoveries will continue to make the Headlines

In 2008, the spotlight will fall onto China and Beijing in particular, as after all, this is the year that China will host the Olympics for the first time.  However, for palaeontologists the focus will remain on other more rural parts of China such as the provinces of Liaoning and Henan.  Expect more amazing, beautifully preserved fossils of feathered dinosaurs and many new species from the extensive deposits.  Also, with the law passed last year granting all fossil finds to the state, expect more prosecutions and fossil confiscations when peasants attempt to sell their finds.

Everything Dinosaur to Increase Product Range

The team at Everything Dinosaur have been busy organising hall tests, focus groups and other forms of marketing research to identify new prehistoric animal themed products and services.  This trend is going to continue into 2008 and the dedicated team will introduce a number of new products this year, new games, clothing lines, new models and such like.  Trade events and exhibitions will be visited and many new items will be added to the Everything Dinosaur website over the next few months.

To visit Everything Dinosaur: Everything Dinosaur

Plenty of Plesiosaurs in 2008

It is very probable that new types of Plesiosaur (giant marine reptiles) will be named and described in 2008.  Such is the interest in palaeontology at the moment that a number of research teams are excavating Mesozoic marine deposits and within these sediments it is quite likely that new species of marine reptile, including the long-necked Plesiosaurs will be found.  Hot spots for Plesiosaur finds in 2008 are Greenland, the Arctic circle, Germany and Alberta, Canada.  More Pliosaurs and Ichthyosaurs may also be discovered.

New Legal Dispute over United States Fossil Tyrannosaur

Last but not least comes our final prediction.  A new discovery, perhaps more T. rex bones or another major Theropod from the Cretaceous will end up caught in a legal wrangle.  After 67 million years, a well preserved fossil uncovered in some part of the western USA will fall foul of a legal dispute over ownership of the specimen and the right to extract more bones from the site.  US federal law is currently being tested by one collector and his discovery of the remains of a large Tyrannosaur, if another such specimen is discovered outside of a properly orchestrated museum expedition and dig then expect another legal wrangle.

One thing is for sure, it may be 65 million years since the Dinosaurs disappeared and the science of palaeontology may well be a relatively young discipline but 2008 will certainly have plenty of highs and lows for dinosaur enthusiasts, scientists and palaeontologists.

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