What Dinosaur Fossil Digging Is Really Like (Science Behind the Fiction) | SYFY WIRE

Dig, dig, dig! Paleontologist Mark Norrell reveals what dinosaur fossil excavation is really like

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Jun 29, 2018, 11:30 AM EDT

With Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom currently taking a bite out of moviegoers 25 years after Jurassic Park made dinosaurs cool again, SYFY WIRE has asked famed American paleontologist and molecular geneticist Mark Norrell to tell us what we've learned about them since the Steven Spielberg movie first came out.

Let's just say, with the rapid advancements in science and technology over the past few decades, we've learned much more about dinosaurs than we've ever had since paleontology became a thing.

"The last 20 years, 25 years and stuff has really been a fantastic time to be a dinosaur paleontologist," Norrell told us. "There are excavations that have started all over the planet in a lot of areas that have never been excavated in. We also have technologies that we couldn't even think about back 25-30 years ago to be able to apply to some of these problems, so we really have learned a lot. Everything from what color some of them were, that most of them had feathers, to things about their reproductive biology, their nesting, how they laid eggs and all that kind of thing. So we learned more in the last 30 years than we had in the entire history of dinosaur science before that."

Norrell went on to list satellite imagery, superfast computers, high imagery CAT scans and synchrotron radiation as modern tools of the trade now used to study dinosaurs.

Since there was a groundbreaking discovery of a new dino species in Africa earlier this year, we asked him to explain how hard it is to find fossils in Africa and why they are really important. He also touched upon what has been the biggest find of his career. Being a scientist who works both in the field and in the lab, there are (more than) two parts to his fascinating answer.

There's definitely a lot of juicy stuff to chew on in our exclusive interview, so dig in to find out more!

Additional material by Nathalie Caron.