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How an SMU dinosaur hunter’s 72-million-year-old sea monster got to the Smithsonian

Dallas Morning News

Originally Posted: November 14, 2018

Three weeks before his team’s fossil finds go on display at one of the world’s most famous natural history museums, Louis Jacobs stands in a basement lab at Southern Methodist University sanding the lower jaw of a 72-million-year-old sea monster.

His colleague Michael Polcyn sits nearby, dabbing sealant on a model of the animal’s upper jaw and skull. White dust hovers in the air. Plaster tailbones, skulls and teeth top every counter.

This is the sort of work — preparing models and fossils — that Jacobs had done early in his career, before he became a professor, before he hunted for fossils in Alaska, Antarctica, Malawi, Cameroon and Texas; before he dug up the bones of dinosaurs on display at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science; before he wrote three books and dozens of peer-reviewed papers.

Now Jacobs, 70, in small rectangular glasses, his wavy white hair disarrayed, looks out of place in a lab coat and work gloves, and Polcyn pokes fun at him.

“Because of the way I came into paleontology, I didn’t have a staff like this guy,” says Polcyn, a self-taught paleontologist who helped build and sell a telecommunications company before he joined the staff at SMU. Polcyn adds that Jacobs did more fossil work when he was younger.

“Before I grew old and lazy,” jokes Jacobs, and the two laugh.

Then Polcyn turns serious. “We’ve never put an exhibit of this scale together,” he says. READ MORE