Noted paleontologist Dr. Jack Horner (the real life version of Jurassic Park’s Alan Grant) has recently taken some time from his busy schedule to talk to inGenNET member Jack Thorne.
Besides being one of the world’s leading paleontologists with theories and discoveries that inspire, Horner has also served as the dinosaur consultant on all three Jurassic Park films thus far, and has written and appeared in several books and media projects. In addition, Dr. Horner is the head for the Museum of the Rockies’ paleotology program.
Introduction · Paleontology Talk
Jack Thorne: Hello, Dr. Horner. First of all, I’d like to thank you for taking the time for us to conduct this interview. I’ve been a huge dinosaur fan since I was three, so while my friends grew up on Barney and soccer practice, I naturally grew up watching TV shows with Jack Horner, Dale Russell, Phil Currie, David Norman, and Robert Bakker. Instead of soccer or hockey, I ended up competing in the Yale Paleo-Bowl twice. So, thanks once again for taking the time to do this.
Jack Horner: Sure thing.
JT: First of all, how did you get interested in paleontology?
JH: Well, I like digging up bones, and I liked being a detective. I wanted to do something like biology without all the messy stuff.
JT: You discovered the Miasaura, or, the “Good Mother Lizard.” The nesting grounds and fossils that you found at the site were the first definitive evidence that dinosaurs lived in family structures, and cared for their young. Can you tell us a little about the actual discovery, like where it was, and what your first thoughts where upon discovering the Miasaura?
JH: The first bones came from an amateur bone digger. They came to me and showed me the little bones, and I determined that they were baby fossils. We went back to the site. We found one nest, then another, and eight nests over-all. We found eggs in the nests. We also found fifteen of the Troodon nests in the area.
JT: Also, you used a computer to study Miasaura bones, concluding that the air sacks and hollows in the bones were used for blood vessels, making the dinosaur warm-blooded. What are some more examples of how dinosaurs are closer to modern birds than reptiles?
JH: Well, actually reptiles are reptiles, but come from dinosaurs. You see, dinosaurs are just built more like birds, with their similar ankles, up-right posture, similar bones, and feathers.
JT: Another one of your theories is that the Tyrannosaurus Rex was built for scavenging, not hunting, making it the jackal on the Mesozoic. What in the Tyrannosaur’s skeleton points towards it’s scavenging life style, and how do you feel about the general populace’s reluctance to consider the Rex as a scavenger?
JH: Well, I don’t think there’s any evidence for the T-Rex as a scavenger. The legs proportion’s all wrong, it couldn’t run fast, it had tiny arms, tiny eyes, it just wasn’t build to hunt!
JK: So when we see the Rex eating with the Compies in JP3, is it scavenging?
JH: I think so.
JT: I understand that you were the “dinosaur consultant” for all three of the “Jurassic Park” movies. When you work on these films, what exactly do you do to try and bring believable prehistoric creatures to life?
JH: It’s my job to make sure the dinos look real, so I work with Stan Winston and ILM. But I don’t have to make them act real, because the dinosaurs are actors, and like all actors, they’re under the control of the director.
JT: But the filmmakers can’t always take credibility over drama. For example, on the first JP, when you suggested that they show a T-Rex tooth stuck in Gennaro’s leg, because the Rex’s teeth were constantly breaking off and being replaced, like a shark’s. But, Steven Spielberg decided not to include that shot, because he felt it was too gory. How do you feel about the truth on dinosaurs being changed for the public?
JH: I’m not frustrated about that at all. I’m as interested to see a good movie as anyone.
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