According to renowned paleontologist Jack Horner, people see dinosaurs every day. They’re picking up crumbs from under café tables, singing in the trees or being eaten at Chick-fil-A.
Horner spoke Saturday afternoon at Neumiller Lecture Hall to a crowd of community members and students.
According to Horner, many things have changed in how dinosaurs are perceived and displayed. Previously, dinosaurs were considered similar to lizards, but Horner said scientists should think of them more as birds.
“Birds are dinosaurs,” Horner said. “I’ll say it again. We have to start thinking about dinosaurs when we think about birds.”
He also spoke about his experience as the scientific adviser for the “Jurassic Park” films. Horner said the dinosaurs there weren’t very realistic because they didn’t have feathers or bright colors, as emerging fossil studies suggest they did.
“They were grey, brown and not very interesting,” Horner said. “But they didn’t think feathered, brightly colored dinosaurs running around would be very scary. Velociraptors should have been feathered and colorful.”
Another project Horner touched on was the “dino-chicken” project, which has been working to genetically manipulate chickens to have more dinosaur-like traits, including snouts with teeth and tails. This would be a way to further understand major evolutionary transitions.
“I thought it was really cool,” Shannon Henry, a senior animation and visual effects major, said. “You can tell he was a very intelligent guy, but he did a good job of not talking down to us like we were stupid but making it understandable for everyone.”
The event was hosted by Bradley’s Center for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education. The goal of which is to increase the scientific literacy of students and community members.
“One of the mission goals of the STEM Education Center is to increase the scientific literary of people on campus, students, faculty and staff, as well as the community around us,” STEM Center co-director Kevin Finson said. “So, by bringing in a speaker like Jack Horner, we are helping them have access to some new and current science information from outstanding individuals who are in the forefront of their field.”
There was also a fossil exhibition Saturday morning before the lecture, where people as far as Macomb brought in displays.
“It was a very tutorial, educational process, and I think that’s really part of what we want to accomplish, is to educate and do it in an entertaining way,” Finson said.