Paleontologist Paul Sereno, a University of Chicago professor and one of National Geographic magazine’s explorers-in-residence, has discovered dinosaurs on five continents and will offer an in-depth account of his excavations tomorrow at the Victoria Theatre as the season finale of the National Geographic Live Series.
Co-presented by the Victoria Theatre Association and Five Rivers MetroParks, Sereno’s lecture will offer colorful, eye-opening details of his first-hand findings across the globe including Argentina, Morocco and the Sahara Desert. In advance of his appearance, the Illinois native, who has made documentaries for PBS and was named one of People magazine’s 50 Most Beautiful People, discussed some of his amazing adventures.
Q: What attracts you the most about dinosaurs? Why do you love paleontology?
A: “I came very late to an appreciation of dinosaurs, but I love the whole field of paleontology. Dinosaurs have an incredible story of evolution on drifting continents. Paleontology is truly a Cinderella field. It involves travel, artwork, science, reasoning, reconstructing, mathematics, chemistry and molecular biology. The excitement of discovery is right at the center of it.”
Q: Where have some of your favorite excavations occurred?
A: “I have a special place in my heart for the Sahara Desert in the African country of Niger. The Sahara Desert is as big as the continental United States. I’ve collected about 100 tons of dinosaur bones there and have managed to move them about the planet. I’m also going to the Arctic Circle in a couple of months to find dinosaur bones. You can go anywhere on the planet and find dinosaur bones.”
Q: What are some of your most fascinating discoveries?
A: “In the Sahara Desert, one of my favorite hunting grounds, I found a crocodile, a super croc, 40 feet in length. In Argentina I found dinosaur origins (the predators Herrerasaurus and the primitive Eoraptor) from the early part of time. What I try to tell the youngsters at my appearances and my students as well is that when my team goes out on an expedition we’re trying to insert pages into the history books. We’ve found carnivorous dinosaurs, plant-eating dinosaurs, plant-eating crocodiles, dinosaur dwarfs, giant super crocs — we’ve found them all.”
Q: What do you feel is the biggest misconception about dinosaurs?
A: “There is one that bothers me although it’s not really that big. In the “Jurassic Park” films, dinosaurs are shown running around with their hands in a bunny-like pose. Dinosaurs actually had hands like chicken wings. But really, some people feel all dinosaurs went extinct at one time. Actually it was an evolutionary conveyer belt. Dinosaurs only lasted a few million years.”
Q: As a teacher of paleontology, evolution and human anatomy, what are some of the valuable lessons you aspire to pass along to your students?
A: “I teach a wide range of ages, but the similar theme is that curiosity is a basic human trait. I also believe we’re in a dinosaur and paleontology renaissance. These fields are fields to go into. There are more museums today than they were yesterday and the day before. I would never say think twice before pursuing paleontology. Science, particularly paleontology, is here to stay. It is a field that will be expanding in the future.”
Q: What do you hope audiences grasp from your appearance at the Victoria?
A: “I want them to be excited by the science of discovery. Discovery leads to adventure and opens your mind to possibilities. And anyone who comes to see me will also see an old friend of mine that’s over 100 million years old. I don’t like to travel alone!”
HOW TO GO
What: Paul Sereno: The Dinosaur Hunter
Where: Victoria Theatre, 138 N. Main St., Dayton
When: 7 p.m. Monday
Tickets/more info: Call Ticket Center Stage at (937) 228-3630 or visit www.ticketcenterstage.com
FYI: This event is intended for ages 10 and older.