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Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History Logo The Department of Paleobiology - The Life of a Vertebrate Fossil
Level 4 - Unraveling the Story - Write and Rewrite
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When the specimen has been studied and other data have been collected and analyzed, a paleontologist can write about the specimen in a paper for others to read. Getting the paper published in a professional journal can take a year or more. After the paper is written, it has to be:

Here are two paleontologists reading a scientific paper.
  • Reviewed by other scientists.
  • Edited or re-written based on the results of the review.
  • Enhanced with charts, drawings, and photographs.

Picture This

Before there were cameras, there were scientific illustrators. They create very detailed drawings, and collaborate with many science experts to help them illustrate ancient enviroments.

Here is a scientific illustration of Tyrannosaurus rex roaming in the middle of North America about 70 million years ago. What experts were consulted for this illustration?

This illustration, by Mary Parrish, Paleobiology Department Scientific Illustrator, depicts Tyrannosaurus rex and the environment where it lived.
  • Dinosaur paleontologists for the latest ideas on what T. rex looked like.
  • Paleobotanists for descriptions of the flowering plants that filled the landscape. The ferns and horsetails are still in existence today.
  • Paleoclimatologists for a description of the climate.
  • Geologists for information on the environment where T. rex lived and the broader geography of the area, such as the presence of the Western Interior Seaway which covered the middle of North America at that tiime. You can see the Seaway in the distant background.

Here is a scientific illustration of a Triceratops skull.

Scientific illustration of a Triceratops skull by Mary Parrish, Paleobiology Department Scientific Illustrator.

To see our Department's PaleoArt site and learn more about scientific illustration, please go to here.

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