Author Michael Crichton based the speedy, smart dinosaurs in his book Jurassic Park on the ideas of scientist Robert T. Bakker, whose research put to rest the idea that dinos were dimwitted, cold-blooded lizards. In fact Bakker was on the research team that confirmed the find of a raptor in 75-million-year-old rocks near Choteau, Montana, in 1993. Only three feet long, it is a birdlike dinosaur called bambiraptor, a smaller but very close relative of the ferocious velociraptors popularized in the Jurassic books and movies.
After years of study, the initial scientific findings about the skeleton were released March 16, and the bones went on view a week later at the Graves Museum of Archaeology and Natural History in Dania Beach. Furthur study of "Bambi" -- the most birdlike dinosaur ever unearthed, having winglike arms and a razor-sharp claw on either foot -- will help researchers answer questions about dino-bird evolution, and the specimen is the centerpiece of the International Dinosaur Symposium: Raptors, Rexes, Fuzz, & Feathers, which takes place April 7 and 8 at the Broward County Convention Center. Hundreds of dinosaur experts from around the world will attend, including huge names like Bakker and Philip J. Currie, chief curator of dinosaurs and birds at the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology near Alberta, Canada, the largest dinosaur facility in the world.
The experts will lecture and hold panel discussions on topics like "The Chemical Composition of Eggshells," which doesn't sound especially exciting -- unless, of course, you're an expert yourself. They'll also spend time examining "Bambi" and a group of feathered dinosaur specimens being brought in from China.
The exhibition accompanying the International Dinosaur Symposium
Broward County Convention Center, 1950 Eisenhower Blvd., Fort Lauderdale
Open to the public Saturday, April 8 (noon to 6 p.m.) and Sunday, April 9 (10 a.m. to 6 p.m.) Ticket prices range from $5 to $7. Call 954-925-7770, ext. 409
When they're done doing their calculations, on Saturday and Sunday the public gets to check out the exhibition, which also features the National Geographic Society display on feathered dinos, a complete brontosaur skull, a tyrannosaur skull, and an oviraptor skeleton. And on Sunday Bakker and Curie will alternate in giving layman-friendly lectures every other hour.
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According to Dr. Martin A. Shugar, Director of the Florida Institute of Paleontology at Graves, dinosaur freaks should consider the exhibition "the equivalent of having King Tut's mask, the Rosetta Stone, and the Magna Carta in Florida for a day and a half. You couldn't even see this stuff at the American Museum of Natural History, because this is the first time all of this is being brought together in one place."