Macalester geology professor Kristi Curry Rogers has been researching dinosaurs for more than a decade. Her most recent fieldwork in Madagascar, Zimbabwe, Montana and Argentina focuses on the evolutionary relationships and biology of titanosaurs and bone histology in living and fossil animals.
Much of her research looks at the long-necked dinosaurs. A lot of new research shows they were actually one of the longest-surviving large species of dinosaur on the planet.
"If you think about what dinosaurs are to most people, they're kind of the poster children for extinction, dumb, slow, dim-witted animals that didn't make it," she said on The Daily Circuit Friday. "What we've found as we've looked through the sauropod and other dinosaur record is that the long-neck dinosaurs, which are the epitome of those slow, dim-witted, huge, over-grown animals, they arise very early in dinosaur time, maybe around 230 million years ago and they don't go extinct until all dinosaurs that are huge do at 65 million years ago."
As a scientist, Rogers said it's a constant game of coming up with hypothesis and waiting for someone to prove you wrong.
"That's the great thing about science; that's why it's so much fun," she said. "It's always changing, whenever there's a new hypothesis you can shoot at it, test it, prove it right or usually prove it wrong... It means people are actually paying attention to what I am doing and they are testing out my hypothesis. If they prove me wrong, good for them."
5 FASCINATING DINO FACTS
Triceratops is no longer a valid species. Scientists have now found that the fossils believed to be triceratops are actually just younger versions of the torosaurus. Since torosaurus was named first, the triceratops isn't a valid species name.
"A lot of times when people are finding dinosaurs for the first time, they name them," she said. "People were naming those dinosaurs based on one or two fragments of bone. That's what happened with triceratops. In the last couple of years, a lab out of Montana has been finding much, much bigger animals that kind of look like triceratops, but they look a little different. They look like something called torosaurus, which is a much bigger horned dinosaur."
We still have forms of dinosaurs alive on earth: Look into the sky. "We think that birds are really just meat-eating dinosaurs that have shrunk in body size and gotten some feathers," Rogers said. "The fossil record over the last 20 years has shown us that there are lots and lots of meat-eating dinosaurs, including some that are 30 feet long that look kind of like tyrannosaurus rex that have a feathery body covering."
Dinosaur bones have never been discovered in Minnesota. When dinosaurs lived here, she said, Minnesota was considered beachfront property. During that time, there was an ocean that stretched from the Gulf of Mexico to the Arctic Ocean and out to the Hudson Bay. It divided North America into eastern and western halves.
Minnesota was not a site of tectonic activity, which is required for bone preservation. That is where the earth is sinking down just enough so that sediment will bury the bodies of the dinosaurs.
The largest dinosaurs likely ate 32,000 calories a day. The long-necked dinosaurs were able to eat from the ground and treetops to get a large amount of food by only moving their necks.
T-rex would still kill you if you stopped moving. Despite the depiction of tyrannosaurus rex in the movie "Jurassic Park," you'd still be dead if you stopped moving while in the presence of the dinosaur.
"That's one of those pieces of artistic license that the producers of 'Jurassic Park' created," Rogers said. "There's no evidence that T-Rex wouldn't have eaten you if it stood near you. It would've been able to see you and smell you; it just wouldn't have been able to catch you with its hands."
Looking to identify a fossil you've found? Rogers recommends contacting the Science Museum of Minnesota. The museum as the Object Identification Program, which takes in fossils and other objects to help find answers.
If you are looking for a dig vacation... Rogers said head to Montana.
Chris Dall contributed to this report.