History of Dinosaur Hunting

The Dinosaur Hunters

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Arthur Lakes Discovery

Edward Cope and Othniel Marsh

Edward Drinker Cope was born in 1840. Othniel Marsh was Head of the Peabody Museum at Yale University. Unlike Cope, Marsh did not often venture into the field but rather directed them from his home in New England



The Bone Wars

When Marsh visited one of Cope's operations in New Jersey, he covertly paid Cope's crew to send future finds to him (Marsh). In 1870 Marsh pointed out that Cope had mounted a plesiosaur skull on the tip of its tail, not its neck. Then in 1877 an English clergyman, Arthur Lakes, began searching the Dakota sandstone in Colorado for fossil leaves. He found dinosaur bones - almost a tonne of them - which were sent to Othniel Marsh at Yale University. A lack of interest caused Lakes to send bones to Edward Drinker Cope, after which there was a mad rush by the 2 parties to take charge of Lakes operations.

There then followed a bitter struggle between Marsh and Cope to discover remains across the United States, which lasted for most of the rest of the 19th Century. Between the 2 of them, they discovered and named a large number of the now famous American dinosaurs e.g Allosaurus, Stegosaurus, Triceratops.

They followed each other around the continent, muscling in on the others finds and pinching specimens - the first dinosaur rustlers! In his attempts to get the better of Marsh, Cope became one of the most prolific dinosaur hunters in history. He named over 1200 species and published 1400 papers. Cope even willed his own body to science.

Their rivalry and intense investigations caused, among other things, the confusion of 1 creature receiving 2 names - Brontosaurus and Apatosaurus, the former now discarded in favour of the latter. Their battles have been referred to as the ‘Bone Wars’.