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Dinosaur Day Unearths The Latest In Paleontology

Cliff the triceratops.jpg
via the Museum of Science website

Love dinosaurs?  Want to learn more about the latest in paleontology?

This Saturday, the Museum of Science, Boston offers dinosaur enthusiasts the rare opportunity to hear first-hand from paleontologists from around the U.S. about their research and theories.  Dinosaur Day begins at 10 am, with presentations and panel discussions throughout the afternoon. The not yet annual event, will focus on the Ceratopsidae family—frilled and horned dinosaurs—much like “Cliff”, the 65-million-year-old Triceratops fossil currently on-loan at the Museum.

The keynote speaker for the event is perhaps one of the best-known paleontologists in the country: Jack Horner. Does that name sound familiar? Not only was he the dinosaur consultant for the Jurassic Park films, he is also professor at Montana State University, an author, and Curator of Paleontology at the Museum of the Rockies.

Horner has challenged numerous ideas regarding the social lives of dinosaurs.  Currently, he suggests that some species of dinosaurs we have may be just different developmental stages of the same species. The root of some of his most striking discoveries comes from cutting into fossils, with help from his students, challenging how fossils are typically studied. This research was done when most institutions refused to break fossils for study; the recovered bones were deemed much too valuable.

“What amazed me most when we cut into baby dinosaur bones,” he wrote in an email, “was how fast they had been growing when they died.  They were growing as fast as baby birds, much faster than mammals!!”

When asked if his example has changed how other paleontologists study fossils, he wrote, “Yes, many researchers are now breaking or cutting open bones to analyze them.”

In one of his latest books, How to Build a Dinosaur, Horner theorizes that we might one day be able to recreate dinosaurs using chickens; suppressing specific genes and stimulating others believed to be shared by dinosaurs. “I do have [two] developmental biology post docs working on retro engineering a bird to produce dinosaur-like characteristics.”

Dr. Susan Heilman, the event’s coordinator, explained that the day is meant to both educate the public and enable the paleontologists to share their research and ideas with each other: “We wanted to focus on young, innovative paleontologists.”

Among those are paleopathologist Dr. Elizabeth Rega, who studies dinosaur diseases, and Dr. Chris Organ, who researches both current and extinct genomes within reptiles. Jack Horner will join them in a panel discussion titled “Current Advances in Old Science.”

With the exception of the keynote speech, all of the presentations will be held in an open space within the Museum, allowing for people to attend at their preference.  Each presentation will occur one right after the other, enabling you to see all of them, rather than having to choose between (and miss!) any of the talks.

“Whoever comes to this event will learn a great deal about Triceratops and horned dinosaurs in general,” wrote Horner, “but I think they will learn a great deal about science as well!”

When: Saturday, March 23rd from 10am – 4pm

Where: Museum of Science, Boston 

Who: While this event is geared towards adults, all ages are welcome and no previous dinosaur expertise is required.

For more information about this event, please visit the Museum of Science, Boston website.

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