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IamA a palaeontologist at the Royal Tyrrell Museum in the Canadian Badlands of Alberta specializing in extinct predators, which means I know important things, like which dinosaur would win in a fight. AMA!

Jul 30th 2014 by Dr_Francois_The • 46 Questions • 3552 Points

THANK YOU AND GOODBYE FROM THE ROYAL TYRRELL MUSEUM https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J81fqK9_DXY

BIO: My name is Francois Therrien and I’m a professional paleontologist working out of the Dinosaur Capital of the World: Drumheller, Alberta in the Canadian badlands. I was part of the team that discovered and described the first feathered dinosaurs in North America, and through my studies, I’ve been able to demonstrate that the tyrannosaurus had the best-developed sense of smell of all meat-eating dinosaurs and the most powerful bite of all theropods. Now’s your chance to ask me anything you can think of about dinosaurs and other prehistoric monsters (e.g. who could absolutely eat a Lambeosaurus for breakfast, lunch and dinner).

Proof: http://imgur.com/JI0lRC5

Royal Tyrrel Museum Tweet: https://twitter.com/RoyalTyrrell/status/494215751163576321

My Bio: http://www.tyrrellmuseum.com/research/francois_therrien.htm

A little known fact :) http://imgur.com/Ck0LBNd

Q:

What dinosaur would make the best household pet?

A:

A baby Stegosaurus because it wouldn’t shed and wouldn’t eat you.


Q:

You're what I want to be when I grow up.

Question: Why did tyrannosaurs have such small arms?

A:

I am flattered. Good luck with your future career J Tyrannosaurs modified their heads to become their primary weapon so they did not have use for their arms. As their heads got bigger and stronger, their arms got shorter and weaker.


Q:

Do you think an adult tyrannosaurus would have had feathers? I've seen depictions of baby T rexes with feathers, but I'm struggling to picture a two storey predatory reptile with a fluffy feather coat.

A:

That is still a question we are trying to definitively answer through our research, and we do not know for certain but there is a close relative of the T-Rex in China that was completely covered in feathers. Therefore, it is quite possible that a Tyrannosaurus had feathers


Q:

Why did you decide to become a paleontologist? What training did you have to do? Favorite dinosaur?

A:

Passion when I was a young kid - when I was 4 years old I got my first dinosaur book and I was hooked. As for training, I’ve had 11 years of post-high school education: undergrad in geology, masters, and PHD in paleontology. My favorite dinosaur is a Triceratops.


Q:

which dinosaur is the most underrated/overrated?

A:

Overrated: T-Rex. Underrated: Ornithomimids


Q:

Do you think the tyrannosaurus was a true predator or more of a scavenger?

A:

That is a good question. The answer is somewhere in between. Even with modern predators, like Lions, they are not exclusively predators and do not pass on an easy meal.


Q:

Does the behaviour of crows resemble dinosaurs in any way at all?

A:

Actually, probably not. Crows are extremely smart and are capable of using tools, they would definitely be smarter than most dinosaurs.


Q:

This is the ama I was born for.

  1. What is your favourite dinosaur?

  2. What in your opinion was the most deadly dinosaur to ever live? You can give multiple dinosaurs through out different time periods if you'd like (I'd like that)

  3. If Jurassic park was real, and while you were visiting it went into total melt down mode, what would you do?

  4. I drove through part of the badlands this winter and was wondering what sites I should check out if I was ever to go again.

I love you.

A:

1.Ornithomimus 2.T-Rex. Giganotosaurus. 3. Scream and run. 4. Drumheller Valley and the Royal Tyrrell museum. Also, Dinosaur provincial park.

Thanks!


Q:

How many Compsognathus do you think you could take on at once?

A:

20.


Q:

That seems oddly specific... Do you have a room full of battle-ready Compsognathus that you're not telling us about?

A:

I've thought a lot about this. :)


Q:

What are some of the biggest misconceptions about dinosaurs?

A:

That they are big cold blooded scaly critters. Most dinosaurs that you know about were covered with feathers!


Q:

You are John Hammond. What are the first three species you bring back and why?

Also how awesome is going to work every morning?

A:

T-Rex, Triceratops, Stegosaurus, Apatosaurus, Lambeosaurus. That's five, but I couldn't choose. I have the best job in the world.


Q:

What do you think would happen if dinosaurs would suddenly come back without any warning?

A:

We’d be in big trouble. Snack time!


Q:

Would tanks and modern weaponry be able to stop them?

A:

Imagine the thickness of an elephants skin, capped by scales. Modern bullets would still likely pierce. It’s feasible that there were herds of dinosaurs roaming around North America, they would likely overwhelm any attempt at modern defense ;)


Q:

How terrifying is this prospect? http://imgur.com/Hq1Fw3w

A:

The end of the world, as we know it.


Q:

Favorite scene in Jurassic park?

Also is the potential for that realistic in the future


Q:

Do you find many complete skeletons when doing field work? Or are all the bones scattered and need to be identified and reassembled?

A:

Historically the Alberta Badlands were prime real estate for dinosaur discoveries. Most of the complete skeletons of duckbills and horned dinosaurs that you seen in Museums are actually from Alberta, Canada. Nowadays finding a complete skeleton is rare, but is definitely something we find!


Q:

What are some of the things in geologic history that make Alberta such a hotbed for fossil related discovery? Not only are there 2 parks dedicated to fossil finds, the Oil Sands is a considerable fossil fuel deposit.

Was Alberta Dino-central back in the day, or does it have something to do with the make-up of the soil that preserves them?

A:

The answer is that it is a mixture of the geology ad the modern climate. At the time, when the Rockies were forming, about 75 million years ago, the rivers would flood and bury dinosaur skeletons, which means that the fossils are now visible!

Now with the climate we have, there is very little vegetation and every rock exposure has the potential to reveal fossils. All in all, it was the great mixture of the Rocky Mountains, our climate, and the rocks being of the perfect age to preserve and reveal such amazing fossils.


Q:

As a 33 year old Project Manager who hates his job and has always loved paleontology, is it too late to be one?

A:

It's never too late to do anything, you just have to head back to post-secondary for 11 years of education, all worth it! You can also get a job as a technician at the Royal Tyrrell and work with me


Q:

Tempting.....but I hear it gets cold up there.

A:

not in this part of Alberta :) it's about 85 degrees here in Drumheller... It'll stay that way all summer.


Q:

Would you rather fight one Triceratops size Compsognathus or a hundred Compsognathus size Triceratops?

A:

Given that the Triceratops is a herbivore, I’d take my chances with one of them as they probably would not be highly ferocious


Q:

I have a 5 year old son who is set on becoming a paleontologist. He has become a dinosaur encyclopedia and can tell you when it lived, what it ate, and what ate it. We've been to a local dinosaur "themed" traveling exhibit, but he's always asking to go to a true museum. Including yours, what are some of the best current museums for a young aspiring paleontologist?

A:

Definitely the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Alberta, Canada. We are Canada’s only museum devoted exclusively to palaeontology and we have one of the world’s largest collections of dinosaur skeletons, most of which were discovered in the Alberta badlands. For more information on how to become a palaeontologist, check out: http://www.tyrrellmuseum.com/research/palaeontology_as_a_career.htm. Other great palaeontological museums around the world include the Natural History Museum in London, UK, the Zigong Dinosaur Museum in Zigong, China, and the American Museum of Natural History in New York, USA.


Q:

If I've learned anything from reading Robert J. Sawyer, it's that all the important work in science is being done in Canada.

My question is, do we have any idea what color dinosaurs were?

A:

For some feathered dinosaurs we do. We have evidence for black, white and rust. Other colours we infer from modern animals.


Q:

What predator would win in a fight, a T-Rex or Nicolas Cage?

A:

Nicolas Cage from Ghost Rider or Nicolas Cage from the Rock? In science, we need to control the variables before we form a hypothesis.


Q:

Nicolas Cage in Face Off.

A:

T-Rex. Definitely T-Rex.


Q:

Nicolas Cage in that commercial where he's dancing.

A:

still T-Rex... The T-Rex's lower jaw "crushing power" exceeds that of Nicolas Cage in any movie to my knowledge.


Q:

I respectfully disagree, I think his dancing prowess would have lulled the t-rex into a trance, which would give Nic the opportunity to make his move.

A:

I love this answer :)


Q:

What evidence of a t-rex's crushing power do we actually have?

A:

Several lines of evidence. Bones with bite marks. Fossil poo with bone chunks in it. Biomechanical studies that recreate the force of the bite. So lots.


Q:

Do you believe that some species of dinosaurs are really just adult versions on other species? Rather than a whole species on its own?

Like how Torosaurus might be an adult form of the Triceratops.

A:

That was definitely the case in the early twentieth century when new species were coined for juveniles of adult species. Today we are much more careful with it, but it is still possible… there is still a lot more to discover which is why it is so amazing to be in the badlands!


Q:

How often do you sing They Might Be Giants's "I am a Paleontologist" to yourself?

A:

Actually this is now the theme song for the Royal Tyrrell museum. It's on youtube somewhere.


Q:

How much of the science in Jurassic Park is true?

A:

Before I share this... I want to tell you that I really enjoyed the film :) It is however a "film". So... remember the raptor claw that was shown? it's wildly exaggerated.

To prove it, I just walked downstairs and grabbed a raptor claw to prove it! enjoy:

http://imgur.com/Ck0LBNd


Q:

Big dinosaurs are fantastic but is it an evolutionary disadvantage over time? I need some ammo for the SO.

A:

Big animals are more prone to extinction. Major environmental upheavals can result in poor survivor-ship of offspring that take many years to reach adult size and reproductive age. Small animals, with short generation times, can quickly recover from natural disasters. It has been estimated that nothing heavier than 50kg survived the end-Cretaceous extinction.

DMH


Q:

If you could go back in time to watch and research a dinosaur, which one would you choose and why?

A:

I’m a little bit biased, but I’d go back about 70 million years and study ornithomimids.


Q:

What is a fact about dinosaurs that absolutely blew your mind when you first heard it/found out in research?

A:

I think the finding of embryos in eggs from various types of dinosaurs was the most impressive. STomach contents of various carnivores are also amazing. eg. Compsognathus with a lizard inside it. My own finding that sauropods would float (due to air sacs in the spine and body) was also a surprise.

DMH


Q:

What is the most interesting/unique item in your museum? Something that most other museums wouldn't have.

A:

Ok, ran down and got the picture of the most unique specimen in my opinion: http://imgur.com/XytPKq0

enjoy :)


Q:

If you were a T-Rex would you eat Jeff Goldblum or Sam Neil first when they try to distract you from the kids in the Explorer?

A:

Jeff Goldblum but I'd likely get indigestion.


Q:

Would velociraptor eggs be edible (I.e. Could I scramble those bitches)?

A:

Yes. With triceratops bacon.


Q:

What is your opinion on current extinction theories? My current understanding is that volcanic events e.g Deccan Traps align better across the geologic record than impacts and suggest that most mass extinctions are due to the resulting changes caused by volcanism. Has the thinking shifted from impact to volcanoes or was it a combination?

p.s. I was on your SIFT 2009 tour of DPP. I was the Queens guy. It was amazing!! Hope you're well.

A:

Hi, how are you doing - hope things are going well with you too

Yes, there has been recent research released that show it was a combination of volcanic activity, climate change, and the impact of the meteorite that lead to the extinction.


Q:

how many times have tried to put your head in the skeletal/fossilized mouth of a dinosaur? and how many times have you pretended to be a t rex while at work?

A:

For the photo shoot alone, I did it about a dozen times… it really never gets old though! Every time someone annoys me…


Q:

Can you tell me anything about this awesome fossil I found? It's about 5" x 5" x 4" thick and is cretaceous in age. http://imgur.com/a/qdcp7#0

A:

Tough to tell from the pictures. You should take it to a local museum to have it identified.


Q:

Do you worship Ross Geller?

A:

Oh yeah, we were really good colleagues and friends… but I’ve lost touch with him since he got back together with Rachel/Jennifer Aniston after their “break”


Q:

Hello, and thanks for the AMA! Have you ever had a chance to work alongside Dr. Currie? I met him as a child and he seemed like a great guy

A:

We overlapped for a short time. But I started right as he was leaving the museum. Yes - great guy!


Q:

What species did Jesus ride?

A:

The internet answered that question already ... http://i617.photobucket.com/albums/tt259/Shadow_Ghost_/JesusonTrex.jpg


Q:

What will it take to figure out how stegosauruses (stegosauri?) had sex?

on a more serious note. do you have any secret knowledge about new dinosaur species being discovered? or what do you think will be the next ground breaking discovery (akin to feathers) in paleontology?

A:

All sciences are competitive. You don't want to give away your special results before the actual publication comes out. Nothing in science is considered done until it is in print, and everybody knows that the results have passed peer-review.

DMH


Q:

Do you believe the Jack Horner theory that Triceratops and Torosaurus are the same dinosaur? And if so, is it possible that different Pliosaurs, such as Funkei and Macromerus are also the same type of creature?

A:

Debated. Current evidence suggests that Triceratops and Torosaurus are 2 different animals. I'm not familiar with the debate about Pliosaurs.