Kids have always dug dinosaurs, plenty of adults dig dinosaurs too. They’re strangely fascinating, these creatures, monsters even, that existed long before we were on this planet. The fact that there’s so much we don’t know about them even still is probably part of their allure, but I think a really big part of why people are interested in dinosaurs is the same reason they’re interested in sharks – they’re just cool.
Dinosaurs are archosaurs, and are collectively regarded as a superorder or an unranked clade of animals. The first division in the dinosaur classification systems occurs between the Saurischia and Ornithischia orders, a division that is dependent on the pelvic structure of the different animals. Within the Saurischia order, there is a further division into three suborders, and a number of separate family groupings. The three suborders are: Herrerasaurians, Theropods (of which there are several groupings), and Sauropodomorphs (of which there are several more groupings).
In short, people empathise with dinosaurs, even T. Rex. As I discussed in an earlier post spiders, or at least their webs, also elicit interest and column inches. I suspect part of the interest in these stories is the confusion in the press between science and observation of nature/environment. This has a long history (at least for me) because I remember that what passed for science in my Junior School was timetabled as “Nature Study”.
Almost anywhere children go these days, they are exposed to dinosaurs in one way or another, even on school milk cartons. Furthermore, these creatures are almost as popular with adults. Much of the trendy merchandise appeals to the “yuppie” generation. Articles on new dinosaur extinction theories and fossil discoveries are frequently featured in major national magazines. And a steady stream of new adult-level dinosaur books continues to be issued by humanistic publishers each year. Even adults are fascinated by these great beasts–and likewise the history and controversy surrounding them.
Dinosaurs invoke a child’s imagination and sense of wonder about the prehistoric world. Dinosaur museums bring this imagination to life and teach about creatures that once roamed the Earth, and how the planet and the living beings on it have changed throughout time. California has several natural history museums with dinosaur exhibits to explore.
The Natural History Museum lies in Balboa Park, near the famous San Diego Zoo. The museum dates to 1874, making it one of the oldest scientific facilities in southern California. It contains exhibits on a number of different subjects, including permanent displays of dinosaurs and dinosaur bones, as well as a giant 3-D theater and full-time research center. Rotating exhibitions often center around dinosaur themes–”T-Rex on Trial,” for example–and the museum hosts special events for field trips and student groups.
The fossils in our collection have been acquired over nearly a century, and the collection continues to expand rapidly through the Dinosaur Institute’s very active field program. The DI runs expeditions several times a year to collect fossils from Utah, Arizona, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, and right here in California.
The only museum on mainland Britain dedicated to dinosaurs, the award-winning Dinosaur Museum is a treat, especially for children. The museum combines life-sized reconstructions of dinosaurs with fossils and dinosaur skeletons to create an exciting hands-on experience. Multimedia displays tell the story of the giant prehistoric animals and their enthralling world millions of years ago.
The University of California Museum of Paleontology, located on the U.C. Berkeley campus, claims to have the “largest paleontological collection of any university museum in the world.” The pieces in the collection are used to teach students of all ages. The museum is open only during special events and for school field trips, so plan your visit in advance. Teachers can call to schedule guided field trips during the school year. For general public viewing, the museum hosts an open house every April that includes tours and presentations.
A new study describes a new technique used to measure the weight and size of dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals. It could forever change museum exhibits, book illustrations, and other recreations of these now-extinct species. The study appears in the latest issue of Biology Letters
“This is a huge help for any sort of reconstruction,” lead author William Sellers told Discovery News. “We now have a number that suggests how much flesh to add to the bones and that should help people produce animals that are the right balance of too fat or too thin.”
Dinosaurs may have been much slimmer than originally thought according to a new model used to estimate body mass.“This is a huge help for any sort of reconstruction,” lead author William Sellers told Discovery News. “We now have a number that suggests how much flesh to add to the bones and that should help people produce animals that are the right balance of too fat or too thin.”
The study published in Biology Letters found that large mammals generally had 21% more body mass than the minimum skeletal “skin and bone” wrap volume, as determined by laser scanning.
High-tech scanners, fast computers and other tools were simply not available back in the day when dinosaur weights were first estimated. Up until fairly recently, even experts resorted to some fairly homespun methods for attempting to calculate dinosaur heft.
Mallison thinks it is “certainly a very good method for mammals, but I’d like to see tests with more details to find out if archosaurs (crocodiles and dinosaurs) have the same regressions, or differ.”
On a small island off the coast of Costa Rica exists a most unusual animal preserve by the name of Jurassic Park. Operated by dinosaur lover John Hammond (Richard Attenborough), Jurassic Park is the first of its kind. Its population of creatures includes brachiosaurs, dilophosaurs, tricerotops, velociraptors, and a Tyrannosaurus Rex, each of which has been cloned using the latest technology that takes DNA from dinosaur-biting prehistoric insects preserved in amber, and uses that DNA for the re-creation. When the consortium funding Jurassic Park become concerned that all is not as it should be, Hammond is forced to call in three experts: paleontologist Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill), his partner, paleo-botanist Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern), and the brilliant-but-cynical mathematician Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum). When the trio arrives at Jurassic Park, they are astonished by what it represents. It doesn’t take long, however, for astonishment to turn to horror.
Jurassic Park is the tale of blind scientific ambition that goes horribly awry. In that sense, it’s not all that different from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein – the “Prometheus Unbound” story which warns humanity not to go too far too fast.
“Jurassic Park” mixes such horrific touches with sentimental strokes, suspenseful action scenes and occasional droll notes. The camera effectively winks at a “Jurassic Park” souvenir book shown at a concession stand (though this may be most clever to those who plan on selling programs). Mr. Spielberg also gets a last laugh by letting a T. rex muscle aside a museum exhibit of a dinosaur skeleton, rising up against a banner that reads “When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth.” Obviously, they rule again.
Jurassic Park serves as an example of his control of story and imagery but also shows off his lack of character development, which has only really been cured in Jaws, indisputably his best film. His next film, Munich, was written by Tony Kushner, the famed author of Angels in America, which might make for a deeper drama from Spielberg. Either way, I guarantee that the producers spared no expense.
Surely ever since the first fossils of obviously extinct animals were found, humankind has wondered: “Why did they die?” A poignant question, for it has relevance to us — if extinct animals were wiped out by some catastrophe, couldn’t that just as easily happen to us? Could we be found as fossils someday, and would no one know why we died.
It has also been suggested that desease killed off the dinosaurs. A very deadly and contagious desease may have circulated among the dinosaurs forcing them to become extinct.
Still yet another theory is that the Earth just gradually changed in climate over a long time period and the dinosaurs were not able to adapt to the cooler, dryer climate.
The extinction event did not kill all animal and plant life. Many kinds of animals survived, including fishes, frogs, turtles, crocodilians, birds, and mammals. Scientists must take the fossil record and find reasons for all extinctions.
Most experts think the dinosaurs’ extinction was closely connected with the impact of a meteor near what’s now the tip of the Yucatan Peninsula — the so-called “Chicxulub impact” (pronounced CHEEK-shoe-lube).
An international panel of experts has strongly endorsed evidence that a space impact was behind the mass extinction event that killed off the dinosaurs. Their review of the evidence shows that the extinction was caused by a massive asteroid or comet smashing into Earth at Chicxulub on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.