Hollywood Dinos Bring Paleo to Life

Jurassic Park Screenings 6
A smiling dinosaur skull poses with UT paleontologists at the
Alamo Drafthouse. From left to right: Kenneth Bader, Sarah Davis, John Jacisin, Lisa Boucher, Matthew Brown.

There’s a scene in the new “Jurassic World: Dominion” movie in which a pyroraptor leaps on screen with a mouthful of razor-sharp teeth and a coat of fire-red feathers. Although the “Jurassic Park” movies were made for entertainment, there’s much about their iconic dinosaur depictions that scientists agree were spot on. That’s why the movies are such a great opportunity for paleontologists to present real dinosaur science to the public, said Sarah Davis, a graduate student and researcher at the Jackson School of Geosciences Museum of Earth History’s Vertebrate Paleontology Collections.

“The ‘Jurassic’ movies have been a fantastic opportunity for paleontologists to engage with the public and bring our science to a much wider audience than we can typically reach,” she said.

Hollywood has long provided the museum with opportunities for public outreach, usually by partnering with movie theaters to set up fossil exhibits at screenings and answer audience questions about the science behind the movies.

With the new “Jurassic World” movie on the big screen, the museum team partnered with Alamo Drafthouse for just such a special screening, bringing with them their unmatched dino knowledge and a mini-exhibition with real fossils — just right to get the audience ready for an evening of teeth, claws and Laura Dern.

Think what you like about the new movie. Many such as Davis were thrilled to see some of the latest science in the way dinosaurs looked and behaved.

“I was particularly excited to see so many feathers!” said Davis, who joined the museum’s panel after the movie to share the science about what it got right and wrong. “And these fluffy coverings don’t take away from how terrifying it would be to unexpectedly run into a theropod.”

After a long pandemic-induced hiatus, the museum was also back at Blue Hole Regional Park for an under- the-stars screening of the first “Jurassic Park” movie, co-organized with the City of Wimberley and the Austin Paleo Society.

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