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(HOST) In recent years, dinosaurs have become big screen celebrities, but as with so many Hollywood icons, what’s on the screen may not accurately reflect reality, according to commentator Ted Levin.

(LEVIN) Jordan and William, my two youngest boys, are resident authorities on the film Jurassic Park and all the sequels. Over the years they have become my primary source of information on the movies’ antediluvian reptiles. More recently, as the boys delve into the REAL lives of dinosaurs, they have become my primary source of information on the films’ biologic inaccuracies.

The other day William and Jordan and I stopped by the Montshire Museum of Science to see Chinasaurs, a traveling exhibit of dinosaur models and fossils,cast from original bones unearthed
in China.

Here is a timeline one needs to know to better appreciate both Chinasaurs and Jurassic Park.The Mesozoic Era, aka the Age of Dinosaurs, began approximately 225 million years ago and ended roughly 65 million years ago. The Mesozoic is divided into three Periods. In order of appearance: the Triassic; the Jurassic; and
the Cretaceous.

During the Triassic there was one super-continent, Pangaea, which was then slowly breaking up. Pangaea was subtropical
and watered by monsoons, much like modern South Florida. Squat, thick-limbed reptiles, forged in Pangaea’s evolutionary furnaces, eventually evolved into dinosaurs.

During the Jurassic Period, which began approximately 190 million years ago, Pangaea broke up and dinosaurs radiated into all sorts of unusual shapes and sizes. One creature that had not yet appeared at that time was Velociraptor, the jumpy, sickle-clawed star of Jurassic Park. Velociraptors are vintage late Cretaceous, appearing more than fifty million years after the Jurassic Period ended.

As soon as William and Jordy saw the life-size model of Velociraptor, which was barely bigger than a twelve-year old boy, they told me the movie had more than doubled the dinosaur’s size.

The Montshire’s Chinasaur exhibit also features a sculpture of Packycephalosaur, or “thick head,” that actually appeared in the movie Jurassic Park: Lost Worlds. According to the text that accompanies the sculpture Packycephalosaur’s neck was too weak to absorb battering. According to my boys Packycepha-
losaurs were depicted as head-butters in the film, slaming into each other like scaley bighorn sheep.

Chinasaurs also features a nest of dinosaur eggs. In the 1920s, when the American Museum of Natural History sent intrepid explorer-scientist Roy Chapman Andrews – the model for whom the fictional charactor “Indiana Jones” was patterned – on the first
of three collecting expeditions into the Gobi Desert, Chapman and his colleagues excavated a clutch of dinosaur eggs.

On top of the eggs was the fossil of a dinosaur that closely resembled Velociraptor. Chapman named the creature Oviraptor, or “egg hunter.” He believed it was raiding the nest of a Proceratops, a small beak-faced dinosaur. Subsequent research-
ers found the embryo of an Oviraptor in one of the eggs, which suggested that the dinosaur on top of the nest was the mother, not an egg thief.

This is Ted Levin from Coyote Hollow in Thetford Ctr.

Ted Levin is a writer and photographer and winner of the 2004 Burroughs Medal for Nature Writing. He spoke from our studio in Norwich.

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