Today we have something rather special. A report from one of our Junior Reporters and an interview. The Junior Reporter is Dino Doodle and they are dinosaur mad. It was therefore an exciting and extremely enjoyable day when we got to go to The Natural History Museum and interview a real Palaeontologist!
The Natural History Museum
We aren’t going to lie, we went for the dinosaurs and that was our focus. However, there is a whole host of fun to be had at The Natural History Museum and so much to see. From dinosaurs, animals and photography, to historical artefacts, creepy crawlies and gemstones. There are even gems and rocks from space!
The museum is massive, so we would definitely recommend getting a map. They do sell a fabulous Souvenir Guide for kids, which is hard backed and has a map on the back cover. It is filled with activities and things to discover whilst you are venturing around the museum.
All of the exhibits are incredible! Our favourite was probably the Ichthyosaur displays that were just breath-taking. It is the perfect way to take some time for a little self-care, enjoy time with family or friends and boost your mood!
Cassius, a PHD student with just two years left in his studies. Cassius’s area of study is Therapods, two legged dinosaurs and he sat down for an interesting chat with Dino Doodle about all things dinosaurs, becoming a palaeontologist and The Natural History Museum.
What does it feel like to be a palaeontologist?
That’s a good question! I think it’s every kids dream, or most kids dream. So, you get to live in that childhood dream. Every day you have that magic of working with dinosaurs and researching dinosaurs.
That’s cool! I want to be a palaeontologist when I grow up.
You can definitely do it.
I have been watching David Attenborough’s videos. I even wrote a letter to him and he wrote back.
That’s amazing and very impressive. Have you watched Prehistoric Planet on Apple TV?
Yes, I really like it! And I have been digging up fossils and brought some with me that I found and wanted to show you. I have a lot of shark’s teeth, whale bone and fossilised wood. (Dino Doodle then showed their fossils to Cassius).
Wow, that very impressive. Oh wow. Well done for finding them.
I would like to donate them to them museum.
That’s very sweet. It would be better for you to keep them and study them though.
Why do palaeontologists dig up fossils?
We have to dig up the fossils, so we can understand about animals that lived in the past. That way we can study them.
Do you know about Thapunngaka shawi?
Hmm, I’m not sure. Can you tell me about it?
It was a pterosaur found in Australia. The largest one ever found!
Ahh, yes! That pterosaur lived, from what I understand in the Late Cretaceous Period. It would have lived alongside some of the long necked dinosaurs and some plant eating dinosaurs similar to the Iguanodon, a dinosaur from the UK. Currently, there’s a very special dinosaur that hunted them called Australovenator, a Mega Raptor. They are very unique and mysterious dinosaurs and we don’t know much about them, because they were very fragmentary. We don’t have enough bones to really understand them.
Ohhh! I know some long necked dinosaurs – Apatosaurus, Brontosaurus, Brachiosaurus. (there was a short discussion about movie names for dinosaurs that prompted the following).
So, the reason the names are like that, whoever publishes the paper first, gets to name the animal. So I think back in the 1800 Apatosaurus and Brontosaurs were believed to come from the same animal, genus or species. For whatever reason the Brontosaurus became more embedded in the public understanding. Then for over a hundred years they were either thought to be different or the same animal. Now it is thought they are significantly different, but that may change with more research.
What’s your favourite dinosaur?
I think at the moment it would have to be Spinosaurus.
What do you love about the museum?
It has lots and lots of very cool dinosaurs. It has Baryonyx which is like a cousin to Spinosaurus and that was the first dinosaur in world to be accepted, officially as a fish eating dinosaur. They found fish scales in their stomach that was corroded by stomach acid.
That’s really interesting. What is your favourite Therapod?
Technically it would be Spinosaurus, but I can also say it would be the Mega Raptors.
My favourite raptor is the Velociraptor like Blue from Jurassic World.
Why did you want to study Therapods in the first place?
I think I really wanted to study dinosaur ecology, like where they lived and their environments. There was a really cool project with Baryonyx and Spinosaurus and the ecology of the megalosaurs. There wasn’t really much known about them like how aquatic were these dinosaurs. How much time did they spend in the water? Did they go under water? Did they just feed on the surface like heron? Or were they more like otters diving under the water?
There was also a lot to learn about Therapod diets, which was more diverse. So, there were lots of cool unanswered questions. Unlike say with T-Rex where it was the top, only big Therapod, earlier in North America in the Jurassic and other parts of the world, there were often multiple large therapods. There’s lots of questions around how these big Therapods lived alongside each other.
I read sometimes the Brachiosaurus would stand on two legs to eat!
It would have been unlikely that the Brachiosaurus did this because it was very top heavy. It would be more likely that the Diplodocus would have because it was shorter and had a longer tail.
That’s really interesting, thank you.
Wikipedia is actually a really good resource for discovering which dinosaur facts are right, because all of the dinosaur fans update it regularly.
How long have you been a PHD student?
Two years, so I have two years left before I finish.
So it takes four years?
Yes. I’m studying Therapods and their brains. They had the largest brains of dinosaurs compared to their body mass.
Thank you very much for meeting me.
You are very welcome.
It was so awesome to meet Cassius and interview him!
We had lots of fun when we visited The Natural History Museum and when meeting Cassius. He gave us lots of advice and information on becoming a palaeontologist and dinosaurs, that we simply could not fit into this one article!
If you decide to take a trip to the museum, go early and give yourself plenty of time to explore. It is free to get in as they are a charity, so please do think about getting a souvenir guide, map or making a donation to support this wonderful awe inspiring place!