Newspaper articles featuring
Dinosaur Discovery

The Sun Chronicle - Tuesday, July 13, 1993

Hey, dig this: 'Dino' fossils

Martin Gavin / The Sun Chronicle

The great dinosaur hunt -- Nancy Walker watches as Eric LoPresti and Daniel Hunt, each 5 and from Wrentham, scout out the dinosaur "bones" she planted at Stony Brook. Both boys are signed up for an official hunt, one of two scheduled this summer. There are still openings for Aug. 28.

Audubon hosts hunt

By Chris Reagle
Sun Chronicle Staff

Norfolk – Jurassic Park it's not, but for one day portions of the Massachusetts Audubon Society's Stony Brook Wildlife Refuge will be used to give families realistic glimpses into the lives of dinosaurs through fossil hunts and recreations.

The program, called Dinosaur Fossil Hunt for Families, will be held from 10 a.m. to noon Aug. 28 at the Massachusetts Audubon Society's North Street sanctuary (Route 115).

Nancy Walker, an occupational therapist-turned entrepreneur, said she will lead families through the sanctuary to search for previously hidden unassembled chipboard cutouts from "Dinosaur Discovery" kits she sells at Stony Brook's Nature Center. Some of the dinosaurs when assembled are more than 10 feet tall.

She plans to explain how people who search for and assemble dinosaurs, called paleontologists, extract, identify and package their finds.

While that part of the program is fun, Walker said what's important is that participants walk away with a clearer image of the ancient creatures. For one, she cautions against scientific speculation as new evidence emerges, replacing existing beliefs.

New research, for instance suggests that not all dinosaurs were cold blooded and not all were reptiles, she said. Cold blooded creatures move slowly but the Tyrannosaurus rex, once thought of as a lumbering carnivore that depended more on its massive jaws and razor teeth than speed, was actually quite fast. She said popular culture perpetuates certain dinosaur myths - but in the past few years truth has emerged.

"Not all dinosaurs were big and ferocious," said Walker. "Kids go for that in a big way. In the movie 'Jurassic Park' that's the big thriller of that movie. I thought it was a great movie. It depicted the dinosaurs as very realistic although from my reading I found one dinosaur to be larger than it was supposed to be and another smaller."

While fossils have answered some questions, such as size and diet, other elements, she said, are "conjecture."

Walker said the movie took the artistic leap of presenting the Dilophosaurus as having the ability to spit a caustic substance to subdue pray; however, she said, there is no proof that it was actually capable of doing that.

"Glands do not fossilize," she said.

She even cautions on the accepted appearances of some dinosaurs. She notes the paleontologist who first found portions of an Iguanadon found what he thought was a horn and placed it on the creature's skull. Another paleontologist found a complete Iguanadon skeleton which showed the "horn" to actually be one of two thumbs.

"Even scientist make mistakes, too," said Walker, the mother of a teenaged daughter and son.

Fossils are generally found in areas where the top layer of soil has eroded, such as near a river bed.

"It's through movement of the earth, like earthquakes, that would lift them closer to the surface," said Walker. "Usually it's through erosion - water and wind - that the fossils that are closer would become exposed."

New England has not produced many notable dinosaur relics, outside of a 10,000 year old mastadon tusk recently identified in Scarborough, Maine and a few other bones scattered over the region. Footprints seem to be the only indelible mark the creatures left in the region.

Movies such as Jurassic Park and the lesser publicized "Carnasaur" feed into people's curiosity but Walker thinks people would be interested in any case.

"They're something not alive and it's kind of mysterious because of that. All we find are fossilized bones," said Walker.
"Imaginations can go wild in situations like that and kids have great imaginations, especially when they see the large dinosaurs," she said. "You can imagine all you want but they're not going to come around the corner."

"It's like Godzilla, only safer," adds daughter April Walker, a senior at Tri-County Vocational Technical School in Franklin.

 

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