Scientific Colloquium
Nov. 20, 2019, 3:30 p.m.
Building 3, Goett Auditorium

"Dinosaurs Red in Tooth and Claw: New Discoveries in the Evolution and Adaptations of Carnivorous Dinosaurs" 

Velociraptor, Allosaurus, Tyrannosaurus: some of the dinosaurs best known to the public are members of the Theropoda--colloquially called "the carnivorous dinosaurs". Uniquely among the three major branches of Dinosauria they retained an obligate bipedal stance despite reaching 9 tons or more. While best known for their flesh-eating members, several lineages of theropods actually evolved into omnivores, insectivores, and even herbivores. Furthermore, as established in the 1970s, the theropods also include the only surviving branch of the dinosaurs: the birds. These species have done more than capture public attention, however. New studies have revealed hitherto unknown or poorly understood parts of their biology. Analyses of their mass distribution demonstrates, for instance, how some groups (notably the tyrannosaurids) had specializations for agility even at large body size. Work on estimating bite forces indicate that some of these have the most forceful bites known in the history of land animals. Biomechanical study of the sickle claw of the dromaeosaurid "raptor" focus on its function as an organ of grasping and piercing. New specimens unveil novel morphologies (functionally one-toed theropods) and developmental patterns (species with teeth as juveniles but toothless as adults). Furthermore, the distribution of feather form and pattern in theropods on the lineage towards birds show that the evolution of avian flight was more converse and complex than it once appeared.

About the Speaker:

Thomas R. Holtz, Jr. is Principal Lecturer in Vertebrate Paleontology at the Department of Geology, University of Maryland, College Park. His research focuses on the origin, evolution, adaptations, and behavior of carnivorous dinosaurs, and especially of tyrannosauroids (Tyrannosaurus rex and its kin). He received his Bachelors in Earth & Planetary Geology at Johns Hopkins in 1987 and his Ph.D. from the Department of Geology & Geophysics at Yale in 1992. He is also a Research Associate of the Department of Paleobiology of the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History and serves on the Scientific Council of Maryland Academy of Science (which operates the Maryland Science Center (Baltimore, MD)). In addition to his dinosaur research, Holtz has been active in scientific outreach. He has been a consultant on museum exhibits around the world, and on numerous documentaries. He is the author of the award-winning Dinosaurs: The Most Complete, Up-To-Date Encyclopedia for Dinosaur Lovers of All Ages (Random House). He was co-editor of the 2014 2nd Edition of The Complete Dinosaur (Indiana Univ. Press) and is in the midst of co-editing the 3rd Edition. He received the 2018-2019 Provostís Excellence in Teaching Award for Professional Track Faculty.
Return to Schedule