Peter Larson

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For other people named Peter Larson, see Peter Larson (disambiguation).
Larson at the 2014 MontClair Film Festival

Peter Lars Larson (born 1952) is an American paleontologist, fossil collector, and president of the Black Hills Institute of Geological Research, a company that excavates, prepares, and sells fossils. He led the team that excavated "Sue", the largest and most complete specimen of Tyrannosaurus rex found to date, and has published numerous scientific and popular works on dinosaur paleontology, yet his commercial enterprises and support of private collections have made him a controversial figure among academic paleontologists.[1]


Larson founded what eventually became the Black Hills Institute in 1974.[2] Partners Robert Farrar and (Larson's brother) Neal Larson later joined the company. In 1990, Larson led the excavation of the Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton later named "Sue". With only a bachelor's degree in geology,[1] Larson has written and co-authored numerous publications on dinosaurs, has excavated more T. rex skeletons than any other paleontologist,[3] and his organization's work on excavation and preparation of fossils has been recognized by paleontologists Robert Bakker, Philip Currie, Phillip Manning, and Jack Horner for its quality.[1][4] He was one of the first to work with T. rex bone pathologies, has worked to uncover sexual dimorphism in the chevron length of T. rex, and argues that the controversial tyrannosaurid Nanotyrannus is not a juvenile T. rex, as some claim.[5] However, Larson has developed a controversial standing among some academic paleontologists who object to his organization's commercial selling of fossils,[1][2] yet Bakker has backed Larson as a responsible paleontologist.[6] Following a result of the government seizure of property at the Black Hills Institute, from charges pertaining to paleontological work unrelated to the "Sue" T. rex find, Larson was remanded to the federal penitentiary at Florence, Colorado for his conviction of two felonies and two misdemeanors,[6] charges which some considered politically motivated.[4] The felonies involved the "failure to fill out forms," which resulted from contested instructions from the judge. The trial record shows that the judge told the jury to ignore testimony from the government's own customs witnesses, testimony that normally would have resulted in acquittals in these charges.[7]

Larson, along with paleontologist Kenneth Carpenter, edited the scholarly text Tyrannosaurus Rex, the Tyrant King. Larson and his ex-wife Kristin Donnan wrote the book Rex Appeal, which relates the story of how the U.S. Government took possession of the "Sue" T. rex skeleton following its excavation, and Bones Rock!, a children's book about the history of paleontology and requirements on how to become a palaeontologist.[1]

In 2013 Larson and colleagues began excavating at a site located in Wyoming, US containing the remnants of three nearly complete skeletons of Triceratops.[8]

Selected works[edit]

Journal articles[edit]

  • Larson,P and Frey,E. "Sexual Dimorphism in the Abundant Upper Cretaceous Theropod, T. rex." Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 12, Abstract 96, 3 September 1992.
  • DePalma, R. A.; Burnham, D. A.; Martin, L. D.; Rothschild, B. M.; Larson, P. L. (2013). "Physical evidence of predatory behavior in Tyrannosaurus rex". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 110 (31): 12560–12564. doi:10.1073/pnas.1216534110. 

Popular books[edit]

  • Larson, P. and Donnan, K. "Rex Appeal". Montpelier, VT: Invisible Cities Press, 2002.
  • Larson, P. and Carpenter, K. "Tyrannosaurus Rex, the Tyrant King (Life of the Past)". Indiana University Press, 2008.
  • Larson, Peter; Kristin Donnan (2004). Bones rock! Everything you need to know to become a paleontologist. Montpelier, Vt.: Invisible Cities Press. ISBN 193122935X. 

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Mullen, William (January 21, 2003). "Bones of contention: Academics and commercial fossil hunters may never settle their differences". Chicago Tribune. 
  2. ^ a b Rooney, Brian (Nov 13, 2007). "Racing Against Time and Weather for Dinosaur Bones". ABC News. Retrieved 26 April 2014. 
  3. ^ Alden, John (August 11, 2002). "'Rex Appeal' - one historic fossil, three stories". The Baltimore Sun. 
  4. ^ a b Browne, Malcolm W. (July 21, 1992). "A Dinosaur Named Sue Divides Fossil Hunters". New York Times. 
  5. ^ Switek, Brian (23 October 2013). "(News Feature) Palaeontology: The truth about T. rex". Nature 502 (7472): 424–426. doi:10.1038/502424a. 
  6. ^ a b Browne, Malcolm (February 22, 1996). "Fossil Dealer, Target of Federal Prosecutors, Begins Jail Term". New York Times. Retrieved 18 April 2014. 
  7. ^ Larson & Donnan, Peter & Kristin (2002). Rex Appeal: The Amazing Story of Sue, the Dinosaur That Changed Science, the Law, and My Life. Invisible Cities Press. 
  8. ^ Smith, Matt (June 4, 2013). "Triceratops trio unearthed in Wyoming". CNN. Retrieved 18 April 2014. 

External links[edit]