Meet paleontology's wonder boysthe hard-shoveling, hard-drinking fossil hunters of the Bahariya Dinosaur Project
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WHEN THEY STUMBLED across the second-largest dinosaur ever found—an 80-foot-long Paralititan stromeri—Pennsylvania University grad students Josh Smith and Matt Lamanna, along with geologist Ken Lacovara, became dino-hunting superstars. As they pack up their shovels and head back to Egypt in search of another big find, Outside checks their homework.
How many dinoburgers would your discovery make?
Lacovara: If this animal weighed 80 tons, as we think, that would be 640,000 quarter-pounders.
Josh and Matt, two years ago you were a pair of beer-and-brontosaurus-obsessed grad students. Today, you’re the most celebrated dino hunters in the country. Does fame corrupt?
Lamanna: We are the same people, but I probably know less than I did two years ago, having burned away vital brain cells. Josh and I started this thing with a beer and we’ve stayed true to that theme.
The bureaucracy in Egypt has kept paleontologists at bay for 80 years. You wheedled a digging permit anyway. How?
Smith: My girlfriend, Jen, snuck me in as her assistant when she went to Egypt to study geoarchaeology. The next year I promised to train some Egyptians in the States and they gave me a permit.
Is there an official drink of the Bahariya Dinosaur Project?
Lacovara: That would be gin and tonic. No, forget that. Just gin. Eighty-five-degree gin, with no ice.
What comes next for the team?
Smith: Another expedition in January, along with a book and documentary in March. Hopefully, this is only our first discovery.
Recount your most exotic dig-related ailment.
Lacovara: Food poisoning from bad water buffalo. Hah! As if there is good water buffalo.
Which one of you digs the best?
Lamanna: Ken only digs little trenches because he’s a sedimentologist. In swinging a pickax, it’s pretty even between Josh and me, except you can’t really tell because Egyptian picks are made of palm wood and they suck.
What question can Matt “The Walking Dino Encyclopedia” Lamanna not answer?
Lamanna: I can’t tell you what color they were. No one knows. I also get: “If spinosaurus met tyrannosaurus in a fight, who would win?” I don’t know. They probably wouldn’t have met anyway, being 30 million years apart.