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).


Royal Tyrrel Museum Tweet:

My Bio:

A little known fact :)

Comments: 3756 • Responses: 61  • Date: 

pennyklane1544 karma

What dinosaur would make the best household pet?

Dr_Francois_Therrien2527 karma

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

HonorConnor630 karma

What about when it gets older?

Bocote1333 karma

Ditto, we don't want to see irresponsible owners throwing away their Stegosaurus because they're no longer small and cute.

Dr_Francois_Therrien1939 karma

always consider "responsible dinosaur ownership". Thank you.

Texcellence1309 karma

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

Dr_Francois_Therrien1313 karma

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

MONKSFTW856 karma

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

Dr_Francois_Therrien1845 karma

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

psychodagnamit817 karma

Nicolas Cage in Face Off.

Dr_Francois_Therrien1479 karma

T-Rex. Definitely T-Rex.

KayakBassFisher215 karma

Nicolas Cage in that commercial where he's dancing.

Dr_Francois_Therrien444 karma

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

KayakBassFisher465 karma

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.

Dr_Francois_Therrien283 karma

I love this answer :)

padoink111 karma

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

Dr_Francois_Therrien330 karma

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.

Angrant96850 karma

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

Question: Why did tyrannosaurs have such small arms?

Dr_Francois_Therrien1210 karma

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.

lanadelreyzorblades747 karma

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.

Dr_Francois_Therrien678 karma

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


pandas795702 karma


Dr_Francois_Therrien1213 karma

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.

Eternally65685 karma


Dr_Francois_Therrien1093 karma

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.

Kimano657 karma

How terrifying is this prospect?

Dr_Francois_Therrien617 karma

The end of the world, as we know it.

HireMeThroughAMA632 karma


Stoooooooo557 karma

What are some of the biggest misconceptions about dinosaurs?

Dr_Francois_Therrien1117 karma

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

Dr_Francois_Therrien963 karma

Dinosaurs were not failures. They were diverse and lived on all the continents, and were around for 165 million years. Plus they are not all truly extinct. Birds ARE dinosaurs. So we still have theropod dinosaurs with us today.


Frajer550 karma

which dinosaur is the most underrated/overrated?

Dr_Francois_Therrien894 karma

Overrated: T-Rex. Underrated: Ornithomimids

tyroneking515 karma

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

Dr_Francois_Therrien935 karma

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

The_Messiah461 karma

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.

Dr_Francois_Therrien694 karma

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

TheMisterAce437 karma

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

Dr_Francois_Therrien692 karma

We’d be in big trouble. Snack time!

TheMisterAce339 karma

Would tanks and modern weaponry be able to stop them?

Dr_Francois_Therrien590 karma

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 ;)

Dr_Francois_Therrien463 karma

I don't think the would last very long. Plants are continually evolving new chemical defences to resist being eaten. Animals are also evolving counter strategies to the plant toxins. Plant-eating dinosaurs have not been playing the evolution game for 66 million years, and would most likely be poisoned.


poodlebug398 karma

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

Dr_Francois_Therrien533 karma


colourmered342 karma

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

Dr_Francois_Therrien475 karma

I've thought a lot about this. :)

hellofatty371 karma

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?

Dr_Francois_Therrien439 karma

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: 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.

KayakBassFisher346 karma

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

Dr_Francois_Therrien507 karma

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

KayakBassFisher172 karma

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

Dr_Francois_Therrien316 karma

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

wegrowitumowit305 karma

Favorite scene in Jurassic park?

Also is the potential for that realistic in the future

pygmymammoth259 karma

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

Dr_Francois_Therrien396 karma

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!

TastyClamburger258 karma

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

Also how awesome is going to work every morning?

Dr_Francois_Therrien456 karma

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

InternetConquistador232 karma

What species did Jesus ride?

Dr_Francois_Therrien324 karma

The internet answered that question already ...

karmanaut205 karma

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

Dr_Francois_Therrien428 karma

Ok, ran down and got the picture of the most unique specimen in my opinion:

enjoy :)

Dr_Francois_Therrien414 karma

I'm Donald Henderson, a colleague of Dr. Therrien, and I will be answering some of the questions.

I think our most special specimen is the 3D, uncrushed armoured dinosaur that we got from Fort McMurray in 2011. It is the best preserved armoured dinosaur in the world. However, the bones are extremely soft and preparation is very slow, and it will take another 3-4 years to complete.


liarandathief173 karma

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?

Dr_Francois_Therrien229 karma

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

liarandathief75 karma

Could you elaborate on what we know and moreover how we know it?

robopilgrim301 karma

Feathers have these things called melanosomes and it's their shape and orientation that determine their colour.

Dr_Francois_Therrien233 karma


undrunk13172 karma

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?

Dr_Francois_Therrien222 karma

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.

claire0167 karma

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.

Dr_Francois_Therrien167 karma

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

thekillerdev152 karma

Do you worship Ross Geller?

Dr_Francois_Therrien236 karma

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”

SimpleWave152 karma

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

Dr_Francois_Therrien308 karma

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.


Dr_Francois_Therrien241 karma


Marty_McFrat129 karma

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?

Dr_Francois_Therrien236 karma

Jeff Goldblum but I'd likely get indigestion.

aitiologia123 karma

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?

Dr_Francois_Therrien128 karma

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.


eightwebs122 karma

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

Dr_Francois_Therrien230 karma

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.


Cerberus_RE122 karma

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

Dr_Francois_Therrien165 karma

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

NorthernDen121 karma

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.

Dr_Francois_Therrien127 karma

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!

GeoHerod120 karma

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.

Dr_Francois_Therrien134 karma

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.

pandacushion115 karma

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

Dr_Francois_Therrien177 karma

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

Bab2385109 karma

How much of the science in Jurassic Park is true?

Dr_Francois_Therrien453 karma

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:

carnizzle84 karma

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?

Dr_Francois_Therrien63 karma

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

yokelwombat80 karma

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?

Dr_Francois_Therrien99 karma

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

midtoke63 karma

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

Dr_Francois_Therrien84 karma

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

colourmered62 karma

What would you rather fight: One T-Rex sized Compsognathus or one hundred Compsognathus sized T-Rexes?

Dr_Francois_Therrien79 karma

I'd take my chances with the One T-Rex sized Compsognathus - you might stand a chance to out run it.

lukeitfc56 karma

Would dinosaurs taste like chicken?

Dr_Francois_Therrien69 karma

Absolutely. They would have been delicious.

sweet_story_bro52 karma

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

Dr_Francois_Therrien93 karma

Yes. With triceratops bacon.

colourmered36 karma

On a scale from one to burgers how much do you like dinosaurs?

Dr_Francois_Therrien77 karma

mmmmmm! Lambeoburgers...

Catsar29 karma

Do you ever feel the urge to purchase copious amounts of dinosaur action figures and have battles with them?.... Perhaps in the bathtub? (With bubbles of course)

Dr_Francois_Therrien53 karma

Been there done that.

TheStabbyClown19 karma

Charizard, Bulbasaur, or Squirtle?

Dr_Francois_Therrien48 karma


psychodagnamit2 karma

What was the most annoying dinosaur ever?

Dr_Francois_Therrien3 karma

Lambeosaurus. They were like Cretaceous cattle.

grayson1011 karma

I have a few question for ya! 1. you truly belive that they are real? 2. do you think they they could come back at some time, maybe from a bone marrow sample or somthing? 3. would they take over the world if they came back? 4. how long would it take before they had the world back to them selves? 5. is jurassic park the movie series, accurate in their actions and what it says about the dinosaurs?

Thanks I'm just really curious

Dr_Francois_Therrien30 karma

  1. Absolutely! There is no doubt. We have fossils from all over the world that prove that these animals lived on the surface of the planet.
  2. Unfortunately that is not going to happen. DNA does not last that long… the only possibility is if we tweak the DNA of a chicken to try to make it grow big scary teeth and claws
  3. Depends on how smart they were… but I think they could get rid of us asap. The smartest dinosaurs were the smaller ones (Raptor like). The relative size of their brain is similar to a Robin.
  4. To be determined… we will let you know after we are done cloning. Start building your bunker right now - just kidding :)
  5. Not quite… stay tuned im going to run down to grab some pictures for you to prove/disprove the authenticity