Are you a dino fan? Excited about the new mega movie Jurassic World?!
NG KiDS talked to world-leading paleontologist Jack Horner, who provided dinosaur facts and information to the team on Jurassic World. Find out what he had to say about the fascinating prehistoric creatures that once roamed our planet...
National Geographic Kids: Hi Jack! Our readers love dinosaurs - what’s your favourite dinosaur?
Jack Horner: My favourite would have to be the Maiasaura, which was the first dinosaur I named! The Maiasaura was an important discovery for paleontologists because it showed us that dinosaurs cared for their young. It also moved us away from the idea that dinosaurs were very reptilian, towards thinking of them as more like birds.
NGK: Do you think that one day we will be able to bring dinosaurs back to life again, like in Jurassic Park and Jurassic World?
JH: Yes, I think we can bring them back. I don’t think we’ll ever find dinosaur DNA, so it won’t be like in Jurassic Park and Jurassic World. But birds are descendants of dinosaurs, and I think that one day we’ll be able to get enough ancestral DNA from birds to make animals look very similar to extinct dinosaurs.
NGK: Wow - that's amazing! We know that we can learn about the size and shape of dinosaurs from their skeletons, but how do we know what colour they were?
JH: Dinosaurs were 'diurnal', which means they lived during the daytime, and diurnal animals communicate with colour. This is why we have such colourful birds and reptiles. Mammals evolved from nocturnal creatures, which is why they aren't normally bright and colourful. We can't say exactly what colour dinosaurs were but - because they were diurnal reptiles, and they are ancestors of our planet's birds - we do know they would have been colourful.
NGK: And what about their behaviour? Can we learn about how dinosaurs interacted with each other from fossils?
JH: We can figure out a few things about how they behaved. For example, we know they cared for their young, because we find baby dinosaur skeletons in nests. They’re bigger than they would have been when they hatched, so somebody must have brought them food. Sometimes, we find lots and lots of dinosaur skeletons in one place, which indicates they travelled in herds. But some of our ideas of how they behaved are guesses based on their bird relatives.
NGK: How realistic are the dinosaurs in the Jurassic World, then?
JH: Some of the characteristics are probably quite realistic, but others maybe not. For example, we know the Velociraptor had feathers and was probably very colourful. In Jurassic World, the Velociraptors are quite blue, but they're not feathery. I doubt the dinosaurs would have growled like they do in the movies either - I think they’d have sounded more like birds, but with deeper calls. The dinosaurs in the movies have been created to scare the audience, more than to show what they were really like as living creatures.
NGK: Do you think one day we'll get to see a different side to dinosaurs in a big movie like Jurassic World? Perhaps a more friendly side?!
JH: Yes - well, I sure hope so!
NGK: What advice would you give to any of our readers who want to follow in your footsteps and one day become a palaeontologist?
JH: I would say watch for something coming! We’re starting to change the whole idea of what dinosaurs were like as living animals - and I think that in the next year or so we'll think of dinosaurs very differently. It’s a very exciting time!
NGK: It definitely sounds exciting! Thanks for answering our questions, Jack!