If you don’t like dinosaurs – specifically, the non-avian kind traipsing across the globe causing havoc for about 186 million years – then you, sir or madam, are a fool of the highest order. Stop reading this article immediately and go watch Jurassic Park.
If, however, you are a perfectly normal person and think that dinosaurs are bloody brilliant, then oh boy, do we have a treat for you. Out there, in the wilderness of the web, exists an interactive map where you can see the locations of almost every single dinosaur fossil ever excavated – along with plenty of other forms of flora and fauna too.
The lovely international team of academics behind this visually resplendent Paleobiology Database have spent more than a decade-and-a-half building it for scientists and non-scientists alike. You can search through “space, time and taxonomy,” and everything’s openly accessible for anyone to dive in a take a look.
The cartographic creation is genuinely breathtaking – you can check out discoveries of life as far back as the Cambrian Period, which featured an explosion of well-preserved complex life forms that commenced around 541 million years ago. Not every known form of extinct life is included in the database just yet, but every week, new entries pop up.
Searching for Velociraptors. PBDB
As for the famous reptilian beasties that once ruled the world, you can check out where scientists found some of the “originals” that emerged after the truly apocalyptic Great Dying mass extinction event 252 million years ago. Or, if you prefer, you can jump in around 66 million years ago, the final chapter in the age of the dinosaurs bookmarked by the rise of mammals, hefty volcanic activity, and a rather infamous asteroid impact.
Fancy finding yourself a Stegosaurus? Type it into the search bar, and boom – you’ve got fossil finds in what is now Russia, China, and a heck of a lot in the central United States. More of an Iguanodon fan? Check out the plentiful examples found in Spain.
The T. rex fossil localities (green) plotted on a map of the Cretaceous Period planet Earth. PBDB
Clicking on each locality brings up a host of information on your chosen long-lost creature, including the journal article it was reported in, how old it is, and what environment is was dug out of.
Brilliantly, you can also alter the paleogeography – the shape of the continents in bygone epochs. Click on the Jurassic Period, and the familiar pale blue dot we know today looks entirely different – back then, the supercontinent Pangaea began to crack up and drift apart.
The initiative is currently being maintained by the Department of Geoscience at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. It’s seriously cool, so if you’ve got time, drop them a line and let them know their hard work is massively appreciated.