Dinosaur Guru Speaks Tonight

Dinosaurs are evolving?in our minds at least.

Earlier in the 20th century, people thought of dinosaurs as slow and sluggish. Since then, they have not only become active, but ?supercharged,? according to Scott Sampson, a University of Utah assistant professor of geology and geophysics.

Sampson, also a curator at the Utah Museum of Natural History, will discuss changes in how dinosaurs are viewed and new discoveries tonight at 7 in Kingsbury Hall.

Now the large creatures rear-up on their hind legs and run at incredible speeds in popular depictions??leaps beyond what they could do 30 years ago,? Sampson said.

Movie makers like Steven Spielberg take artistic license with dinosaurs, and that, in turn, influences scientists.

Recently, a researcher in Mexico theorized grooves on newly found teeth were used for transporting poison.

It?s no coincidence the suggestion came after audiences around the world saw a small, frilled dinosaur spitting poison in ?Jurassic Park.?

?They would never have looked for that if not for the movie,? Sampson said. ?It wasn?t even in the conception of paleontology.?

Seeing the bones they work with fleshed out and animated prompts paleontologists to think differently.

The idea that dinosaurs may have been warm-blooded ancestors to birds, rather than cold blooded like reptiles, has created problems for long held classifications.

?What you call a reptile is now completely brought into question,? he said.

Less than one month ago, a chance discovery by Joe Gentry, a volunteer in Sampson?s group, revealed dinosaur remains?probably from a new type of tyrannosaur.

The 30-foot-long creature, found in the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, may have been the top predator of its time, about 75 to 80 million years ago.

Sampson?s group is not just ?headhunting? for showy specimens, but collecting remains of turtles, clams, plants and others to create a snapshot of the ecology of the time.

They have also been collecting fragments from what appears to be a new horned dinosaur.

Unlike the horns of any other dinosaur found, these point up and toward the side, away from the head.

Not only dinosaurs, but big horned sheep, chameleons, deer? basically all animals with horns?use them to attract mates or fend off members of the same sex, he said.

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