They are natural history’s superstars, yet we know surprisingly little about the diversity of dinosaurs. Now a mathematical model provides an estimate of how many different genera of dinosaurs there were.
The good news is that at least 70% are still be waiting to be found, the analysis suggests. The work could also stoke the debate about what killed the dinosaurs off in the first place.
Steve Wang, a statistician at Swarthmore College, Pennsylvania, and Peter Dodson, a palaeontologist at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, US, totted up the skeletons found so far from each known dinosaur genus and plugged the figures into an established mathematical model that links observed data to unseen genera.
Only 527 genera have so far been described, but the model estimated that there should be about 1850 in total – leaving plenty yet to be discovered.