Palaeontology Predictions for 2016
At this time of year, our thoughts are very much on the year ahead, this is a rather unusual state of mind for Everything Dinosaur team members as we tend to spend most of our time thinking about the past. Just for a bit of fun and as a challenge to ourselves, we thought it a good idea to try and predict what news stories, events, fossil discoveries and other dinosaur and prehistoric related articles would be featured on this blog site over the next twelve months. A big thank you to all our Twitter and Facebook fans who have made some fantastic suggestions, so without further ado, here are our palaeontological predictions for 2016.
1) Biggest Dinosaur of All to Get a Name
Following the discovery of an extensive bone-bed in Argentina that revealed the fossilised remains of eleven Titanosaurs, all of them a new species that potentially perished together, a scientific description and name will be published. The biggest dinosaur so far described will get a name. A life-size model of this “enor-mo-saurus” is going to be unveiled in the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) tomorrow. This thirty-seven metre long replica is awesome! The dinosaur main gallery is just not big enough to contain this, as yet unnamed leviathan. The head and part of the neck sticks out into the restaurant area of the New York museum. Our first prediction is that this dinosaur will have a formal scientific paper published about it this year. Despite the remarkable Sir David Attenborough presenting the BBC television documentary all about this amazing fossil discovery, we can confidently predict that the name, whatever it turns out to be will not honour Sir David.
The Biggest Dinosaur Known to Science is Likely to Get a Name
Picture Credit: BBC
2) Piecing Together the Human Family Tree
A number of universities and research institutes are currently studying genetic material recovered from fossil hominin remains. For example, scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (Leipzig, Germany) are hoping to provide data on the DNA of a 400,000-year-old hominin whose fossils have been found in a cave in northern Spain. We predict that next year, new papers will be published providing information on the link between our species Homo sapiens and our nearest relative Homo neanderthalensis and the hominin species that is believed to be the direct ancestor of both ourselves and the Neanderthals – Homo heidelbergensis.
More evidence regarding human migration out of Africa may be provided. In addition, we expect to hear more about the inter-breeding between species. As our understanding of ancient genomes improves it is very likely that this year further light will be shed on the “genetic cross-overs” between species.
Expect More Information on Human Ancestry
3) Feathered Tyrants!
We expect feathered dinosaurs to once again feature prominently in the scientific literature. It is likely that more feathered Theropod fossils will be reported from China. In addition, further evidence might emerge of feathered dinosaur fossils from elsewhere in the world, notably Canada. Specifically, we predict that research will be published on a member of the Tyrannosauridae family that provides more information on our “feathered tyrant friends”.
Everything Dinosaur Predicts More News on Feathered Tyrannosaurs
Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur
4) Saltwater Crocodile Cull
An expanding Saltwater crocodile population combined with increasing population growth will lead to further problems with crocodile attacks in the Northern Territory of Australia. Everything Dinosaur predicts that public pressure will continue to grow and the Australian authorities will introduce an official cull of these giant reptiles. A temporary lifting of the ban on hunting could take place, permitting more trophy hunting with a number of crocodiles being shot, or there could be an official cull period, in which nests are destroyed in order to reduce the number of crocodiles within rivers and lakes which are close to population areas.
5) Rio Olympics and a Brazilian Pterosaur
Friday, 5th August 2016 sees the start of the Rio Olympic Games. The world’s media will be focused on Rio for what will be the first summer Olympic Games to be held in South America. We predict that from a palaeontological perspective, Brazil will also catch the media’s attention. A new species of Cretaceous Pterosaur will be announced following fossil finds from a geological formation in Brazil. The discovery will not be made near Rio, but we predict Pterosaur headlines from the Santana Formation or somewhere similar from the north-east of the country.
6) Happy Birthday Sir David Attenborough
Talking of notable dates, May 8th 2016 will mark the 90th birthday of the famous naturalist and broadcaster Sir David Attenborough. He might not get the biggest dinosaur discovered to date named after him, but expect a number of accolades for this remarkable, passionate and enthusiastic supporter of science and the natural world. We predict that as well as the accolades there will be a great deal of newspaper column inches used up in tribute to this Englishman who has been involved in nature documentaries and television for the best part of sixty years.