Rock & Gem

Want to Discover a New Species? Search Museum Shelves!


Can bones unearthed in 1978 lead to a discovery in the present day? Jeremy Lockwood’s recent find proves they can.

Every day, a paleontolo­gist somewhere in the world digs up a bounty of bones buried in the earth and sends them off to a museum or university. So many fossils and so few scientists to deal with them upon arrival. The result? A plethora of dinosaur bones remains piled up and unexamined. A few bones have finally emerged from the dust, thanks to Lockwood’s four-year endeavor to unearth stored bones.

When he retired from his career as a physician, Lockwood decided there was more to life. Now, at age 64, he’s well into his pursuit of a Ph.D. in paleontolo­gy at the University of Portsmouth in the United Kingdom. There, he focuses on the dinosaur-rich Isle of Wight, where some 20 species of dinosaurs have been identified.

For over 100 years, only two species of plant-eating hadrosaurs has been found there: Iguanodon bernissart­ensis and Mantellisa­urus atherfield­ensis. But might there be others? Lockwood delved into the dust at the Natural History Museum in London and Dinosaur Isle museum on the Isle of Wight to catalog and examine every bone in storage. His keen eye for anatomical detail helped him spot an undiscover­ed dinosaur within boxes of bones. Lockwood said it was “one of the happiest days of lockdown” as he realized that a skull with a strangely bulbous nose would add a third hadrosaur, Brighstone­us simmondsi, to those already confirmed from the Isle of Wight.

This discovery suggests other species are yet to be unearthed—not only undergroun­d, but also in cabinets and on dusty shelves of museum storage facilities.

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