Stories tagged tracks

Nov
07
2007

For most people, the scariest part of the hit movie Jurassic Park was when a pack of Velociraptors was hunting down the two little kids in the kitchen. (For me, the most disappointing part of the movie is the fact that the kids got away – they were so annoying, I was rooting for the raptors to eat them for lunch!)

You dare to question the wisdom of Steve?: The omnipotent Spielberg knows all!  All hail, magnificent and mellifluous Steve! Photo by felinebird at Flickr.com
You dare to question the wisdom of Steve?: The omnipotent Spielberg knows all! All hail, magnificent and mellifluous Steve! Photo by felinebird at Flickr.com

Scientists, wet blankets that they are, complained. Velociraptors, they said, were about the size of a turkey. The creatures in the movie were nearly the size of an adult human. Ah, said Spielberg. If you think there were no large raptors, it’s only because you haven’t discovered them yet. Sure enough, almost at the same time the movie was released, paleontologists uncovered a new species, Utahraptor, that fit the movie version to a T.

Suitably cowed, the scientists learned not to question Sir Stephen again. But, over the years, other nagging complaints arose. The movie showed the dinosaurs hunting in packs. But dinosaurs are reptiles, not known for social behavior, and there was no evidence to support this portrayal. Furthermore, each raptor had a huge claw on one toe, and Spielberg showed them walking with the claw held high, not touching the ground. Again, grumblings were heard – there is no evidence to support this hypothesis.

But such is the power of Saint Stephen that he was able to foresee additional paleontological discoveries fourteen years into the future! For now comes word from China of a fossil track way – dinosaur footprints fossilized in stone. The tracks show six Dromeosaurs – another species of raptor – walking side-by-side as a group along a stream bank. Furthermore, the tracks show complete toe prints for two toes on each foot, but only a half-print for the third toe – the toe that held the claw. This indicates that these dinosaurs did walk with their giant claw held erect -- just like the movie said they would!

Scientists have learned their lesson. No longer do they question the word of the Mighty Spielberg. Instead, they are engaged in a mad scramble to find evidence that Dilophosaurus really did have a neck frill and could spit venom.

Wayne Knight is not returning phone calls.

(NOTE: The November Object of the Month at The Science Museum is a set of fossil animal tracks. You can read all about them here. These are much older and much smaller than dinosaur tracks – but no less interesting!)

A husband and wife walking through a Connecticut state park discovered the footprint of a 250-million-year-old dinosaur. The eastern US has many dinosaur trackways, but it is unusual to find one in such a public place.