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Dinosaur Species Discoveries

This visualisation shows the total number of new non-avian dinosaur species discovered by country of discovery between 1832 and 2019.

The dataset consists of around 3,200 fossil discoveries of non-avian dinosaurs from fossilworks.

To calculate how many new species were discovered in a particular country, I had to first identify for each fossil occurrence whether the species of the fossil was new i.e. was it already known to science. I chose to do this based on the year in which the species was named and published, rather than the year in which the fossils themselves were discovered and unearthed.

For example, given that Iguanodon bernissartensis was first named and published in 1881 based on fossils found in Belgium, this species would add to Belgium's cumulative count of new species discovered. Another discovery of the same species was published in the following year in the United Kingdom, but this wouldn't count as a species new to science, so the UK's cumulative count would remain unchanged.

Based on this logic, I created a table of cumulative discoveries of new species with records for each of the 51 countries in which dinosaurs have been found between 1832 and 2019.

Finally, I created an animated bar chart to show how the rankings of the countries with the most discoveries changes over time using matplotlib.

For me, the most interesting observations are:
  • The rate at which new dinosaur species are being discovered today is the highest in history. The 2010s yielded an average of 36.7 new species per year, compared to 13.9 in the 1990s and 3.3 in the first decade of the 1900s.

  • A lot of the more recent increase in new species comes from discoveries in China and Argentina. These two countries only pop into the top 5 relatively late in the game in the 1940s and 2000s respectively.

  • China dethrones the US at #1 in 2006, after the latter's 137-year reign at the top.
Finally, though not visible in the chart, for every new species discovered each year we also uncover multiple specimens of previously known species, adding to our knowledge of these animals. It's an exciting period in palaeontology!