Barnum Brown & R.T. Bird

Barnum Brown and R.T. Bird in Big Bend National Park

During the early 1900s Barnum Brown was one of the most successful and well-known dinosaur hunters in the world. He famously discovered Tyrannosaurus rex in 1900 in the late Cretaceous (66 million year old) Hell Creek Formation of Montana. In the summer of 1940 Barnum Brown and his long-time field assistant R.T. Bird left New York and journeyed into the desert badlands of what is now Big Bend National Park to search for dinosaur fossils. They drove an old Ford delivery wagon into sections of the park that would challenge a 4x4 vehicle today.

Brown and Bird explored many areas of the park and collected a number of scientifically significant fossil specimens. Some of their most impressive finds included skull parts of the giant alligatoroid Deinosuchus, a skull of the armored dinosaur Edmontonia, and skull and limb bones of the large duck-billed hardrosaur called Kritosaurus.

Brown and Bird also collected bones of the titanic long-necked sauropod Alamosaurus from the late Cretaceous (72 million years ago) rocks of the park. Prior to his trip to Big Bend, Brown had questioned the survival of sauropods into the late Cretaceous. The giant Big Bend bones finally convinced Brown that long-necked dinosaurs did indeed survive until the end of the Cretaceous, which opened up Big Bend as the best place to study these prehistoric giants.

The Alamosaurus bones collected by Brown and Bird would be the last dinosaur fossils Brown would ever collect during his paleontological career. Brown was in his late sixties during his time in Big Bend and museum duties as well as the onset of World War II prevented him from unearthing any more fossils.