It’s a summer’s day in 2013 and paleontologist Robert DePalma is digging for fossil remains at a site in North Dakota. He hits pay dirt, a fossilized specimen of a five-foot paddlefish. Much to his surprise, beneath the fish is a tooth that belonged to a mososaur, a massive extinct reptile. But the finds don’t make sense since the paddlefish lived in freshwater while the reptile was a sea creature. And DePalma’s explanation of this anomaly will astonish – and divide – the world of paleontology.
If the theory DePalma has come up with to explain the extraordinary jumble of fossils he’s unearthed at this site near the North Dakota city of Bowman is correct, it is academic dynamite. And some previous ideas, especially about the extinction of the dinosaurs will be confirmed; while others will be debunked forever.
DePalma is an interesting and sometimes controversial figure in the paleontology field. One thing’s for sure though, his passion for the subject is 100 percent genuine. By his own account, he was just three or four years old when bones started to fascinate him. DePalma recalled in an April 2019 interview with The New Yorker, “I went after whatever on the dinner table had bones in it.”