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2010 Romer-Simpson Medal Recipient

Rinchen Barsbold

Rinchen Barsbold

I was born (1935.12.21) in the capital of Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar city, or UB as its's well-known among the foreigners who have now visited our country. During the most of 20th century my country has been "defended" by the iron curtain from the west and east, and, probably, UB appeared as an abbreviated name only after 1990 while Gorbachev's perestroika had changed the situation that now seems to be so stable and steady. Hopefully, our Mongolia is now quite free and democratic country.

But my field research at the Gobian dinosaur sites started long before these remarkable changes took place. Being the leader of the Joint Mongolian-Soviet expeditions, I had the best possibilities to research many times all the great dinosaur sites over the Gobi Desert, and to include notable fossils into the Mongolian Dinosaur Collection, which is well-known in the world. During that time in Warsaw, thanks to the efforts of Z.Kielan-Jaworowska, an outstanding scientist and 1995 Romer-Simpson Medalist, I had a happy opportunity to meet J.H. Ostrom, who worked out his idea on the bird ancestry. Many years after the iron curtain had been taken off, I met again the great scientist in his Peabody Museum. We were no longer so young, and the meeting was very sincere and touching. Ostrom has advanced our knowledge on the dinosaur evolution, having opened the new approaches to the fruitful "dinosaur-bird" concept, a remarkable achievement of the evolutionary biology at the end of 20th century. I dare think that researchers in the Mongolian Gobi are not only simple eye-witnesses, but may also have promoted, even a little, this remarkable concept. Indeed, the divergence and unique state of preservation so characteristic of the Mongolian fossil record allow us to show a number of unusual aspects in the dinosaur morphology, and even to open slightly this fundamental and hidden sphere of the behavior of dinosaurs. Surely, the Fighting Dinosaurs, the Flock of Protoceratops babies, as well as Oviraptorid Citipati in brooding position say much about the dinosaur behavioral aspects, which were absolutely unknown in the science of the last century.

I always keep in mind R.C. Andrews' words: "Mongolia, a land of mystery, of paradox and promise!" Our friendly cooperations with the colleagues from US, Japan, South Korea, Canada, China, as well as with our old friends from Russia and Poland, have extended the possibilities of the Mongolian Paleontology in which my collaborators and I live. I have had a happy chance to work in many joint expeditions being always their indispensable participant. Now we here understand more deeply the ancient history of the past wild nature of Mongolia and Central Asia as a whole. We see the similarity of the Mongolian dinosaurs with the North American relative groups, and their difference from the Chinese dinosaurs, even though our countries are close neighbours. The great dinosaur sites of the Mongolian Gobi preserve their mystery, paradox and promise. Let's work further!

Photo courtesy of Rinchen Barsbold.