You’ve heard of “Shark Week,” but how about a Dinosaur Month?
National Geographic Kids presents “DinoMAYnia” throughout the month of May.
“We’ve got this amazing hub on our website,” Paleontologist Nizar Ibrahim told WTOP. “Nat Geo Kids has a great selection of dinosaur books, they can print out dinosaur posters, they can enter a ‘Design a Dino’ contest and they can find out more about these incredible creatures from the deep past of our planet.”
Why do dinosaurs continue to capture children’s imaginations?
“Dinosaurs are like mythological dragons of our childhood, the kind of creatures we see in fairytales, except that dinosaurs were real!” Ibrahim said. “Dinosaurs pushed boundaries; the largest, heaviest land animals ever to evolve were dinosaurs. … They were also really alien looking. There’s nothing alive today that looks like a T-Rex.”
However, you will see dino descendants in today’s birds.
“Dinosaurs invented feathers,” Ibrahim said. “Initially, they were not used for flight; they were used for insulation to keep the dinosaurs warm or maybe for display like a peacock’s tail. One group of small, feathered dinosaurs gave rise to animals that we now call birds. Birds are dinosaurs; they survived the mass extinction event.”
What else have we learned from the latest science?
“We now know that dinosaurs were incredibly sophisticated animals,” Ibrahim said. “That’s really different from our old-fashioned image of dinosaurs as these slow, lumbering giants. … Some dinosaurs moved in herds; some in nesting colonies.”
Ibrahim’s own paleontology team recently discovered the swimming Spinosaurus.
“It was a water-loving dinosaur,” Ibrahim said. “It was a river monster, a giant dinosaur with crocodile-like jaws, a paddle-like tail and a giant sail on its back. This animal was going after SUV-sized fish in an ancient river system in what is today the Sahara.”
He says it’s a “dream come true” being an official National Geographic Explorer.
“National Geographic is this big global name,” Ibrahim said. “It doesn’t matter where you go in the world, many of the people you meet know National Geographic. They know it because they watch the National Geographic Channel in various language editions or they’ve read the magazine, so it’s really great to have their support.”
What advice does he have for kids who want to be paleontologists when they grow up?
“It’s not an easy path,” Ibrahim said. “If you’re a budding paleontologist, you have to take all the science classes, you’ll have to go to university … you probably have to get a Ph.D., so it’s a long journey. It’s not always easy, there are not a ton of jobs, but if this is where your heart lies, if this is your passion, you should absolutely go for it.”
There are also other professions to explore your love for dinosaurs.
“You can become an animator working on computer graphics bringing dinosaurs back to life in documentary films,” Ibrahim said. “You can be an exhibition specialist in a museum, you can work in science communication, or you can be an artist illustrating dinosaur books.”
You can start with the “Design a Dino” contest for DinoMAYnia.