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John H. Ostrom, Influential Paleontologist, Is Dead at 77 (moved from ATSNN)

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posted on Jul, 21 2005 @ 11:41 AM
John Ostrom discovered the raptorial dinosaur Deinonychus antirrhopus and wrote up an excellent monograph on the then bizzare, bird-like creature. Ostrom is responsible for starting the modern understanding of dinosaurs as active, agile, and extremely well adapted animals; rather than lumbering icey blooded simple behemoths. He hypothesized also that birds had evolved from Deinonychus like dinosaurs when this idea was very much against the grain of thought in the origins of birds. His darring was vindicated by his research and the spectacular discoveries feathers and other bird-like adaptations in Deinonychus like dinosaurs. Dr. Ostrom spent much of his career working at the esteemed Yale Peabody musuem where he was an emeritus curator of vertebrate paleontology and emeritus professor of geology and geophysics. He hosted large conferences on the Dinosaur-Bird hypothesis and even a conference focusing on the specimin Archaeopteryx. He is recognized by his colleagues and peers as a giant in the field of Paleontology. He passed from Alzheimer's comlications in Connecticut.
In a research report, Dr. Ostrom described this dinosaur [deinonychus] as a raptor, an active predator that killed its prey by leaping and slashing with its fierce claw. Such behavior, he suggested, meant that the animal had a high metabolism rate and was warmblooded[...]
On a visit [the Teylers Museum in the Netherlands] in 1970, he saw a fossil specimen identified as a pterosaur, a gliding reptile, that to him did not look like a pterosaur. It came from the same Bavarian quarries that had yielded other fossils of Archaeopteryx, a curious mix of dinosaur and bird characteristics and generally accepted as the earliest known bird, from about 150 million years ago. The rediscovery prompted Dr. Ostrom to study the evolution of birds and bird flight. [...]
He is also survived by a generation of former students and other paleontologists influenced by his discoveries and interpretations of dinosaurs, birds and early flight

Please visit the link provided for the complete story.

Ostrom was the mentor of some of the real movers in Paleontology today, such as Dr. Robert Baker and Dr. Tom Holtz, who were and are deeply invovled in the ongoing revolution in dinosaur paleontology wherein dinosaurs are studied as living animals, with considerations in the metabolism, physiology, and behaviour figuring stronlgy along with the phylogentic analytical method of Cladistics Ostrom also studied Hadrosaur tracks and hypothesized that the organisms moved in herds. His studies of Achaeopteryx have been so influential that an entire symposium in his honor and on that subject was held years ago. He was almost prescient in his thought. Ostrom's students carry on his research, his papers are continuously cited in paleotological studies, and even his name lives on in Rahona ostromi, a specimen that is yet another physical epitome of Ostrom's ideas. His thought and work were so influential that today, when you look at any dinosaur, your conception of it is part and parcel of Ostrom, and even when you look at a bird flitting about in the sky, you are often thinking about it in a way that Ostrom established.
Dr. Ostrom, while he had been inactive in paleontology personally for the past few years, still influences the field and will be personally and professionally missed by people throught the world of paleontology and biology.

Related News Links:

Related Discussion Threads:
All dinosaurs are are giant lizards

[edit on 21-7-2005 by Nygdan]

posted on Jul, 22 2005 @ 10:22 AM
Npr's All Things Considered" audio peice on Dr. Ostrom

"A rather nice piece featuring Bob Bakker's reminiscences of John" says T. Holtz. Holtz and Bakker are both former students of Dr. Ostrom and both are currently leaders in dinosaur paleonotology.

posted on Jul, 25 2005 @ 01:48 PM
Obituary Article in The Independant

John Ostrom was a palaeontologist whose careful analyses of dinosaur skeletons revolutionised our understanding of their biology. Gentlemanly and soft-spoken, Ostrom[...] was revered by younger palaeontologists and taught many of today's leading dinosaur specialists.

One of his many paleontological students notes seperately that:

Ostrom really was an inspiration for so many people. Today at the footprint site (silly as it sounds) it really felt like he was there in spirit. An amazing scientist and gentleman...he'll truly be missed.

[edit on 25-7-2005 by Nygdan]

posted on Jul, 26 2005 @ 10:46 AM

Here's a little image I tooled around with of Dr. Ostrom.

Here's another little image that I was compelled to make. Its from a photo of Dr. Ostrom, looking over a dino-bird specimin. Actually, Dr. Larry Martin was in the photo too, but I wiggled him out, because he's a B.A.N.D. person, whereas Dr. Ostrom is B.A.D. (which is good).

The distinction between BANDits and BAD people is important in paleontology and biology in generaly. The basic arguement stems from a consideration of Cladistics, which is the more modern method by which phylogenetic relationships are determined between organisms, whether fossils, living organisms, or even protein or gene sequences.

The idea and theory behind cladisitics has actually been around since I beleive the 70's. However, a german, Hennig, came up with it, and his ideas weren't readily available in English until much more recently. As a result, the knowledge stayed in germany and didn't spread as quickly as it would've into the rest of the scientific world, which is unfortunate because its a very powerful method of analysis.

This is relevant to Dr. Ostrom for a few reasons. His students are of the generation of paleobiologists that have been able to make use of this science, most notably is Dr. T. Holtz, who only a few years ago published a gigantic examination of the phylogenetic realtionships between all tyrannosaurids and related predatory dinosaurs using this cladistic method.

The BAND/BAD debate is a consequence of cladistic thinking. In this mode of thinking, only 'natural' groups are considered. That is, in order for a group to be real, we have to identify its common ancestor, and include in the group all organisms that have stemmed from it. We can also name subgroups within that larger group, but any group allways retains that identity. Because of that we have people who state that, literally, Birds are Dinosaurs, not merely descended or closely related to them, but actually are nested within 'Dinosauria' and thus are dinosaurs. This is someting that can be seen as a crowning acheivement of Dr. Ostrom's research program, and it all happened in the course of his prolific career, such that he was able to see his ideas advance thru the science and advance the science itself!

posted on Jul, 29 2005 @ 02:33 PM
Here is a bibliography for scientific articles that Ostrom wrote. These papers are often cited in modern paleontological research.

Here is one of his papers title "The Origin of Birds"
This is Bob Bakker's interpretation of Deinonychus, from 1968. Deinonychus, again, was discovered by Dr. Ostrom, and it was important in his thinking of dinosuars are active, even warm-blooded and intelligent creatures. Dr. Bakker was a student of Dr. Ostroms.
This drawing itself was revolutionary. Notice how its presented as a gracile and probably agile predator, this is obviously no slow witted lumbering giant with ice water in its veins. This drawing was a whole new way of thinking about these animals and it represents the begining of that sceintific revolution in paleontology.

The successes of Dr. Ostrom's way of thinking about dinoaurs was, again, confirmed by the a number of studies, including ones that estimated dinosaur metabolism by investigating the micro-structure of their bones and eggshells and how they would've grown, and ultimately by spectacular discoveries of feather dinosaurs in china. This culminated in this reprsentation of Deinonychus, the same animal above. The pressence of feathers in so many dinosaurs and such a wide variety has indeed indicated that feathers are probably something of a common place within the Dinosaurs. This incredible peice of artwork was done by the highly skilled and very well informed paleo-artist Luis V. Rey, who's website is full of interprations of paleontological specimins that are extremely well liked and popular amoung professional paleontologists.

© Luis Rey

Its rather impressive to see the influence of such an esteem and so genuinely well liked researcher as Dr. Ostrom's be presented in such an intuitive and visional way.

posted on Aug, 15 2005 @ 10:53 AM
A short collection of messages from the Dinosaur Mailing List concering Ostrom's Passing:

One participant notes:

The modern vision of Dinosauria stems primarily from Ostrom's work. When he got into the field, dinosaurs were stupid swamp-dwellers, generally unworthy of research by real scientists. There were only a tiny number of dinosaur researchers working at the middle of the 20th Century. [...] our understanding of these creatures has been forever changed.

the academic lineage of Ostrom. Going back in time takes us along a direct chain to
T.H. Huxley > H.F. Osborn > W.K. Gregory > Ned Colbert > John.

Which is damned well impressive. TH Huxely of course was Darwin's Bulldog; not a student of Darwin's technically tho. So you can see here a line stemming from Darwin himself. And, interestingly enough, Ostrom's research on archaeopteryx confirm's Huxely's origninal suspicions, that birds are closely related to dinosaurs (they stem from them infact).

It was also announced there that the journal Science has made the paper's from the Symposium in honor of Ostrom available on-line.

Another student of his recalls:

Yale in the early 70s was an incredibly stimulating place. Older VP grad students included Peter Dodson (who became something of a mentor to me in my early years at Yale), Phil Gingerich, and Rich Kay, and of course Bob Bakker's influence lingered after his departure for Harvard. We used to get together for coffee in the VP lab at 10 and 3, discussing paleo,
ecology, functional morphology--anything and everything connected to paleo. Most or all of the papers I published as a graduate student originated in those discussions, or in the weekly VP seminar, and I was turned onto some research paths that I follow to this day.

posted on Apr, 28 2006 @ 03:34 PM
Added Information

This thread started quite some time ago. And yet, the repurcussions still echo on!

This is part of a recent letter from G.S. Paul to a newpaper that made note of Dr. Ostrom's passing:

"Dem Bones"

Just a few weeks ago a paper in Nature showed that the best-preserved Archaeopteryx specimen to date—they’re still digging them up in quarries in Bavaria—is even more dinosaurian in form than previously realized, so the first bird was a wee sickle-clawed dinosaur with wings (the feathers are preserved). Equally amazing are some similarly small sickle-clawed “raptors” from China, which have fully developed wing feathers on both the arms and the hind legs of all things. That is something even John never predicted.

[edit on 28-4-2006 by Nygdan]

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