**Hi, I’m Robert T. Bakker, author of The Dinosaur Heresies, Raptor Red and The Big Golden Book of Dinosaurs, and Curator of Paleontology at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. I also contribute to the Beyond Bones Blog. I'm featured in a National Geographic T.V. documentary about the Montana's Dueling Dinosaurs called "Dino Death Match."

Hi, I’m Matthew T. Mossbrucker, Director and Curator of the Morrison Natural History Museum, and discoverer of the first baby Stegosaurus fossils. I’ve worked on many other Jurassic fossils, from Apatosaurus to species never seen before. I'm in a little Nat Geo T.V. special called "T. rex Autopsy," a tale of a rubber dinosaur's encounter with a film crew.

Both specials are airing the week of June 7 on National Geographic Channels worldwide. Both feature tyrannosaurs in all their glory. Let's talk dinosaurs, Jurassic World, dissection, paleontology, pop culture, and upcoming projects. Ask us anything!**:

*MorrisonMuseum & DrBobBakker *

Here's the proof we are really ourselves:

UPDATE: Hey Redditors, Matt is being pulled away from the computer to load up his pickup with fossils for an outreach at the Alamo Drafthouse movie theater. He'll keep answering your questions, so keep them coming!

UPDATE 2 Matt here - Doc Bakker is spent for the night, but he'll be back to answer more questions. I'm sitting in a movie theater lobby, slowly answering your questions while folks chat with me about dinosaurs. We'll keep providing your with sagacious and sarcastic answers throughout the weekend.

Comments: 284 • Responses: 24  • Date: 

MattBaster16 karma

Dr. Bakker, Velociraptors don't look very scary -- more like a six-foot turkey, don't you think?

MorrisonMuseum16 karma

Except when the hunt, which, come to think of it, they wouldn't as they can't time travel... But if they'd hunt you, it probably wouldn't be in packs, since there's no evidence for Velociraptor hunting or even socializing in this way. We do have evidence for feathered raptors, though. V-raptor wasn't even two meters long, and only came up to your knee. Like a mini-poodle nipping at your ankles.

Could you be overpowered by a wee little fluffy Velociraptor? I hope not. That'd be embarrassing. Don't tell anyone.

Now if I wanted to scare you, I'd make you watch "T. rex Autopsy." -MM

IronCurtains_Drapes9 karma

What are your thoughts on the censorship of unpopular ideas and theories?

MorrisonMuseum4 karma

If I were to tell you but it would surely be redacted.

Honestly, a neutral internet allows for all ideas to circulate, allowing valid but unpopular ideas find an audience. Scientists can be cliquish, but the reality of science is that valid ideas will withstand ridicule. Even if it takes time.

DropDead_Slayer8 karma

Big fan here! Of both of you guys. Dr. Bakker you have been on of my idols and made my go into geology as a major and paleontology as a minor. Here are some questions, hope you have time to answer!

Dr. Bakker

  1. Do you still subscribe to the theory of disease causing the wide spread extinction in dinosaurs?

  2. Did you ever get that Dimetrodon you wanted for the museum?

  3. Do we have enough data now to know which dinosaurs survived extinction the longest?

  4. How do you feel about the recent discovery of "fossilized dinosaur blood"? And how might it change what we know about dinosaurs as a whole?

Mr. Mossbrucker

  1. How was it disecting a fake T.Rex? (BTW loved the show)

  2. I know you're a Stego man. How much does it bother you when the thagomizer is presented vertically rather than horizontally?

MorrisonMuseum6 karma

Thanks! Call me Matthew, please. Glad you liked 'T. rex Autopsy.' It was an honor to work with everyone, on and off screen. The experience totally surreal and often hilarious. At times it was grueling, the days on set were long and we were all covered in sticky corn-syrup "blood."

I am fond of those damn frustrating animals. As it turns out, neither extreme of spike orientation is correct - neither vertical or horizontal.

We have a couple of articulated and partially articulated 'thags' from Wyoming's Quarry 13 that indicate where the spikes went on the tail tip. They - and frankly the base of the spikes themselves - indicate that the fore and aft couplets held a slightly different orientations. The fore pair sported a thicker base and were directed up, diagonally from the tail, and pointed backward. The aft pair pointed slightly upwards and directed towards the tail tip.

DropDead_Slayer4 karma

Thank you Matthew, for answering. I guess I wasn't caught up on the "thag" knowledge. That is good to know though.

One more question (or two) if you've got the time. What did they base the internal organs of the T.Rex off of? Also was everything proportional to real skeletons?

and also, thank you as well for doing this AMA!

MorrisonMuseum5 karma

The Rex organs (assuming you mean the heart, stomach and assorted viscera) were generally based on bird guts. The skeleton was based on a scan of the famous T. rex, "Sue" I was told.

Thank you for your questions! -MM

Peter_Venkman_18 karma

Why don't dinosaurs have feathers in pop culture appearances yet? Isn't that well known now? Thoughts?

MorrisonMuseum9 karma

Perhaps no feathers in Jurassic Park as it would break canon?

I see a flood of paleoart with fluffy dinos - they are becoming far more common than the scaly depictions.

sebtheweb297 karma

So, if you don't mind me asking, how much do Paleontologists make on average? I've been looking into that career ever since I was a little kid; it's been my fascination ever since.

MorrisonMuseum2 karma

Doc always told me to "marry money."

Seriously though, this is a calling. Most of us live a monastic lifestyle, while some took his sage advice. -MM

YellowS2k7 karma

What is your favorite made-up dinosaur, and why is it the Indominus Rex?

MorrisonMuseum5 karma

Hahaha! Yeah. The hands of "Ignoramus rex" bother me. They're not dino hands...

tridoc6 karma

As a young aspiring doctor I am interested in learning about research and discoveries across many different fields, however I do not always see the direct significance of some of these projects. What is your best one or two sentence description on why it is important to study paleontology, and how will your work and other discoveries impact my life in the future?

MorrisonMuseum3 karma

Paleontology is important. Broadly, it explores the evolution of life through time from the level of the organism to the ecosystems they shared. The fossil record shows how life arose and fell apart. These real extinction events as recorded in the fossil record and seem awfully relevant these days. If you want to model extinction - use the fossil record.

Fossils are inspiring. The study of fossils integrates foundational sciences like physics and chemistry, and integrative sciences like biology and geology. Fossils are a gateway to other sciences, not to mention thinking critically. On a personal note, fossils have given me a deep respect for life after understanding the long-scale of evolution through time.

Economically, the extractive industries use micropaleontologists to help locate fossil fuels. Tourism benefits, too. Folks love to see fossils in museums and parks.

Plus, the fashion!

awoods50006 karma

The Tyrannosaurus Rex was the most dominant apex predator earth has ever seen. Nothing in the T-rex's territory during the late cretaceous could take it on in a fight. What other predatory dinosaurs lived in a time where they had no rival predators?

MorrisonMuseum3 karma

Was it good to be the king? Hell no. The world of Tyrannosaurus rex was full of dangerous dinosaurs that would have made it cautious. From horned dinosaurs like Triceratops that could gore a Rex with its brow horns to trample-happy herds of duckbills - even the plant-eating dinosaurs would have sent a shiver of fear down the spine of Rex. The most dangerous animal to Tyrannosaurus rex? Another T. rex.

Their fossil bones were battered during the life of the animals. Broken bones, deep gashes, and puncture marks - some healed, some raw at the time of death - all suggest that Rex lead a rough and tumble life.

You want a long, stable life? Don't be an apex predator. - MM

iamelphaba6 karma

My son is ten and seriously interested in paleontology. What are some things he can do to prepare before college? Are there any colleges you'd recommend? Also, my son wants to know if it's likely that the T-Rex had feathers as a baby, but lost them as it grew. Thanks so much!

MorrisonMuseum5 karma

When your son gets a little older, I suggest enrolling him in a volunteer program at your nearest natural history museum with a paleontology department. That will give him a chance to experience various aspects of what paleontology is all about, and find the best undergrad program for him when the time comes.

I'd be very surprised if babies were not feathered, but we don't yet have a baby Rex fossil. As T. rex would grow, I'd think the protofeathers/feathers would change and become more sparse on the animal's hide. Rex lived in hot, swampy terrain and you don't need a ski jacket in a swamp. -MM

DinoDude235 karma

The finding of flight-adapted feathers in even basal troodontids and dromaeosaurids (Anchiornis and Microraptor) is very interesting. Do either of you think that flight may have been present in some primitive form in the paravians?

How do you figure that the ancestors of birds managed to take to the air at all, when pterosaurs were already dominant in the Mesozoic skies?

MorrisonMuseum5 karma

Damn fine question. I don't know the answer. All of the cool kids want to work on feathered dinosaurs, and I run the other direction toward the obscure and forgotten.

If I were forced to speculate, they are either evidence of some flight-related shenanigans or a physical leftover from an immediate ancestor that could fly.

I'd speculate that birds and pterosaurs - at least at first - didn't directly compete for the same resources. Spazzy raptor-birds and dactyls probably weren't in the same niches at the same time. Dunno. That's a bit outside of my little sandbox. -MM

generalcam5 karma

What was the most surprising thing you learned while doing the T.Rex Autopsy?

MorrisonMuseum6 karma

That sugar blood & cheap scrubs are a fantastic combo for epilation.

Peter_Venkman_15 karma

What can I do to introduce my young son to dinosaurs?

MorrisonMuseum6 karma

Find the nearest display of fossils - whether at the natural history museum, science center, state/national park and visit. While visiting, take a guided tour. Ask questions. Then, slow down, put the phone away and bask in the glory of the old dead things. Read the labels. (Seriously, nobody reads the labels...) and soak it all in. -MM

TR0YNAD04 karma

  1. What theories do you wish you could shoot down, no questions asked?
  2. What advice do you have for someone who wants to pursue a career in paleontology?

MorrisonMuseum6 karma

  1. That dinosaurs spoke Esperanto.

  2. Volunteer. Get involved with your local museum and get your hands dirty. -MM

TR0YNAD03 karma

Dinosaurs speaking Esperanto?

MorrisonMuseum6 karma

Nope. I just shot that one down. No questions asked, remember?! -MM

Malkalack3 karma

What's the most interesting thing you've seen in your job?

MorrisonMuseum3 karma

I've enjoyed witnessing kids embrace the subject - especially girls. When I was a kid, is wasn't culturally acceptable for little girls to like fossils. Nor was it cool for little boys to love dinosaurs, but at least adults wouldn't frown upon my dino-enthusiasm.

These are better days. Dinosaurs seem to enjoy greater cultural acceptance than 25-30 years ago. The Jurassic Park generation has grown up, and I've been sitting in the lobby of a movie theater, chatting with self-professed dino geeks who loved the movie. They're smart enough to know that they're not going to learn anything from the film, but their appetite for fossil knowledge has been whetted. They've been "snacking" on our fossils and casts that we placed in the theater lobby, but they're curiosity is insatiable. So, I'm sending them to area museums for a proper intellectual feeding. -MM

avaseyrockz3 karma

Do dinosaurs exist? If does then where?

MorrisonMuseum8 karma

Birds are the decedents of dinosaurs, while gators are the decedents of the ancestors of dinosaurs. Lizards and other critters are only very distantly related in the grand picture.

Now, if you're referring to a brontosaur in the Congo, or a pleisosaur in a Scottish lake - nope. Stories. Great, fun stories.

Frankly, if I thought that non-avian dinosaurs, like a brontosaur, were still alive in Africa - I'd be out there trying to ride it.

gzintu3 karma

So, what's your favorite dinosaur and why?

MorrisonMuseum7 karma

My favorite critter is whatever I happen to be preparing or thinking about at the time. Stegosaurus has circled back in my mind lately, and I suppose that's my answer. When you spend time with a particular fossil, you develop a fondness for it whether it is an Inoceramus clam or the beautiful Stegosaurus.

What's your favorite fossil?

Empigee3 karma

What do you think of the popular science and pop culture treatments of dinosaurs? Do they help generate more serious interest in them, or do they just spread misconceptions?

MorrisonMuseum3 karma

I hit a button and this thing doesn't like me. If you saw a partial response, please ignore it.

Movies like "Jurassic Park and Rex" create curiosity, even thought the intent of the film is entertainment not education. We educators, interpreters, and science communicators find common ground with the curious public thanks to the media. We should be grateful for naked raptors as they allow those of us "in the know" to talk about paleontology and evolution. -MM

Illiterate_Scholar3 karma

Dr. Bakker, do you have any plans on visiting Yale Peabody museum someday?

MorrisonMuseum3 karma

Dunno about Dr. Bob, but I'll be making a pilgrimage again for a week in early November. I'll be taking another look at the results of Arthur Lakes' collecting efforts in Morrison, Colorado back in 1877 to 1879. -MM

CptMortos3 karma

Two questions:

1.If you could be killed by any dinosaur, what dinosaur would it be?

2.What's your favorite pokemon?

MorrisonMuseum3 karma

If I could be killed by a dinosaur it would be a T. rex. How? The little known Rex death hug.

I'm too old for the pokemon. My hobbies include telling kids to get off my lawn and Reddit AMAs. -MM

Frajer2 karma

How can you tell what a dinosaur looked like based on fossils and skeletons?

MorrisonMuseum6 karma

Modern animals give us a blueprint for understanding how dinosaur bodies worked. Whether extinct or extant, animals with a skeleton are variations on the same theme as we all share the same ancestors in deep time.

So, let's say that you want to build an accurate, life-sized model of a dinosaur. Let's choose T. rex. To develop a basic understanding of their guts, we'd better draw on our knowledge of Rex kin - birds and gators. While both groups are unique, they share far more in common (e.g. same organ systems) than they are unique.

To paraphrase geologist Sir Charles Lyell, the present is the key to the past - not just for the study of how the Earth works, but for life as well. - MM

Dinohotel2 karma

If you were stranded on a desert island and could only choose one -- which would you choose -- a never-ending supply of decent cake or a never-ending supply of decent gelato?

MorrisonMuseum5 karma

Gelato, Greg. You're homemade, wonderful gelato. By the way, where the hell is my morning gelato? - MM

devilcat2 karma

Different religions obviously have their own beliefs whether dinosaurs existed or not, and while I was in school teachers seemed to dance around the topic quite a bit, much like evolution. Do you believe dinosaurs should be a regular part of all school curriculums?

MorrisonMuseum7 karma

Dinosaurs existed. We can't lie to kids and waffle about reality to preserve an ill-informed belief. That being said, ridiculing believers for their fear of science will keep otherwise curious brains from challenging concepts within their own canon. -MM