Dinosaurs were intrinsic to the success of Jurassic Park, but who knew that Steven Spielberg’s prehistoric thriller would play such a profound role in our understanding of dinosaurs?
“Interest in dinosaurs has really picked up,” says David Evans, paleontologist and curator at the Royal Ontario Museum.
And a lot of that uptick he says can be attributed to Jurassic Park and its sequels.
The fruits of that interest are now on display at the ROM where their new exhibit, Ultimate Dinosaurs, showcases “21 of the most unusual dinosaurs we know of,” he says.
“There have been more dinosaurs named in the last 20 years than in the previous 100.”
The vast majority of those discoveries, and of the skeletons on display at the ROM, come from the southern hemisphere, a previously untapped region when it came to digging up dinos.
When Pangaea, the supercontinent, broke apart, it first split into two separate continents: Laurasia in the north and Gondwana in the south. With species separated from one another, and the continents continuing to drift apart, they were left to evolve on their own, producing a biodiversity unique to specific regions.
“There are now more paleontologists working in more exotic regions than ever before,” says Evans, with Saharan Africa, Madagascar and the Patagonia region of Argentina emerging as new hotbeds, akin to Alberta’s badlands.
“They’re special localities that have produced an enormous amount of complete skeletons,” he says.
Curating Ultimate Dinosaurs was a sort of homecoming for Evans, who’s worked at the museum for the last five years.
“I saw dinosaurs for the first time at the ROM. It had a big effect on me and took me on the career path I’ve been on.
“We’ve never had more skeletons in the museum than we do right now,” he says. “It’s a dinosaur lover’s dream.”
Ultimate Dinosaurs runs until March 2013. Royal Ontario Museum, 100 Bloor St. W. Visit rom.on.ca/dinos.
The Dinosaur Renaissance
While Jurassic Park has pushed palaeontology to the front of many kids’ career plans, our modern understanding of the pre-historic beasts manifested itself in the 1970s. “It was the start of the big boom in dinosaur discoveries,” says Evans.
During this time, referred to as the Dinosaur Renaissance, scientists revived the idea that birds descended from dinosaurs and began to look at the creatures less as lonely, lumbering reptiles and more as limber, intelligent creatures that travelled in herds.