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May 26, 2009 (REVISED June 8, 2009)
James Clark to Discuss “Dinosaurs Along the Silk Road” at the Library of Congress, June 24
During the past seven years, James M. Clark has been part of a team that found the bones of small dinosaurs mired in mud, stacked one on top of another, in the northern part of Xinjiang, China, near the ancient Silk Road.
Clark will discuss "Dinosaurs Along the Silk Road" at the Library of Congress at 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday, June 24, in the Mary Pickford Theater on the third floor of the James Madison Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington, D.C. The lecture is free and open to the public; tickets and reservations are not needed.
Clark, who is the Ronald Weintraub Professor of Biology at George Washington University, says a spectacular bestiary of dinosaurs and their contemporaries lies buried in the Gobi Desert of China and Mongolia. The desert, according to Clark, has grudgingly yielded their bones to paleontological expeditions that can endure its rugged terrain, harsh sandstorms and flash floods.
In his lecture, Clark will show images of his work in the Gobi and discuss the discoveries made by his expeditions and by others. Many of the discoveries provide critical support for the hypothesis that birds evolved from dinosaurs, and he will discuss this controversial theory.
Clark has spent the past 18 years searching the Gobi Desert for dinosaurs. In 1991, he helped organize the first American expedition to Mongolia with Michael Novacek and Mark Norell of the American Museum of Natural History. For the past seven years, his field work with Xu Xing focused on dinosaurs from the poorly known middle part of the Jurassic Period, in the far western reaches of the Gobi.
Their expeditions to this area, in the northern part of Xinjiang, China, near the ancient Silk Road, revealed three sites at which small dinosaurs had become caught in mud. The dinosaurs in these "death pits" were the subject of a documentary by the National Geographic Channel and an article in NG Magazine. The discovery included the oldest tyrannosaur and a strange new, toothless dinosaur with an intriguing hand skeleton. Preserved elsewhere in the same rocks are remains of the oldest and most primitive horned dinosaur, a small running crocodilian relative, a new flying reptile (pterosaur) and a host of other new species.
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