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World of dinosaurs that spans China

By China Daily | China Daily | Updated: 2013-09-27 09:43

Because of its sheer size, China has one of the most widely distributed collections of dinosaur fossils of all countries and these slumbering beasts that ruled the world for 160 million years left many traces in almost every corner of the country.

Yet all of the early studies were done by foreign archaeologists.

The earliest discovery of dinosaur fossils in China was the work of a Russian, Colonel M. M. Manakin, who found several groups of fossils in Jiayin, Heilongjiang province, in 1901. When the fossils were pieced together, they formed a complete skeleton, which, was classified as Mandschurosaurus amurensis.

China's first dinosaur find is now on display at the Central Geological and Prospecting Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia.

But in 1923, Chinese paleontologist Tan Xichou stumbled across some dinosaur fossils in Laiyang, Shandong province. A study of the fossils was done by a Swedish researcher, Carl Wiman, in 1929, and they were classified as Tanius sinensis, in honor of Tan.

Between 1921 and 1930, a US archaeological team visited what is now the Inner Mongolia autonomous region, the Ningxia Hui autonomous region and Gansu province, and came across a variety of dinosaurs, such as the Bactrosaurus, Psittacosaurus and Protoceratops, with excavation work done later by Chinese and Swedish scientists.

The most significant achievement from this period was the discovery of a dinosaur fauna in Lufeng, Yunnan province, which attracted attention worldwide.

After the People's Republic of China was founded in 1949, the country began developing a number of professional research institutes, which marked the beginning of a new era of archaeological research.

In 1951, researchers discovered their first complete dinosaur skeleton, Tsintaosaurus spinorhinus Young. Yang Zhongjian, Liu Dongsheng and Wang Cunyi of the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology continued to dig until 1958, finding quite a few fossils in Laiyang, Shandong province.

From the 1950s to the 1980s, a number of fossils were uncovered in Sichuan province, including Mamenchisaurus hochuanensis, which has a neck that is almost the same length as its body.

There was also a China-Canada Dinosaur Project running from the mid-1980s to 1990, when scientists did extensive research in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region and the Inner Mongolia autonomous region. The finds include a dinosaur up to 35 meters long, Mamenchisaurus sinocanadorum, large meat eater the Monolophosaurus, and large quantity of Protoceratops and Ankylosaur fossils.

After that, the scientists' enthusiasm shifted to bird fossils found in Liaoning province, with the most famous, Confuciusornis, Microraptor, Sinosauropteryx and Sinopterus telling a story of how some early animals evolved into birds.

Since 2008, Wang Xiaolin, from the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, revisited Laiyang and continued the work to unearth more about dinosaurs from the Late Cretaceous period. So far, more than 200 dinosaur bones and some tortoise fossils have been found in the same geological stratum, with the tantalizing suggestion that these long-living animals could have a much longer history than was previously thought.

Source: Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology


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