How to Build a Dinosaur

Synopsis: A new exhibit at the Los Angeles Natural History Museum will feature three T. Rex skeletons of various ages and sizes. Follow along as scientists tease out clues to how these animals ...
Genre: Documentary

Dinosaurs - you've probably seen

hundreds of them.

You might think you know what they look like,

but almost every dinosaur you've ever seen

is a work of fiction.

LOW GROWL You turn on the television,

it almost feels that we know everything

about them,

and that's not really the case.

But now, a groundbreaking new

exhibition is working

with the world's leading dinosaur scientists

to revolutionise the way we see these animals.

We've found, using computer models,

that a human sprinter

would probably be pretty well matched

for a muscular tyrannosaurus.

Scientists are pushing the frontiers

of our knowledge

in new and surprising ways.

We can say these dark stripes were not red,

- black or whatever - they were ginger.

- That's just amazing.

But we've never even found a complete skeleton

of a Tyrannosaurus rex,

the most famous dinosaur.

So, how on earth have we worked out so much

about animals that lived millions of years ago?

How do we get from an incomplete pile

of broken bones to this.


How do you build a dinosaur?

I'm Alice Roberts. I'm an anatomist used

to working with human bodies.

It's not hard to put a human skeleton together.

You only need to look in the mirror

to get a pretty good idea of

where the bones go.

But what do you do when the bones belong

to animals that went extinct

millions of years ago?

We all think that we know

what dinosaurs looked like.

We've seen plenty of them

- pictures, in films and animations,

even in toy shops.

But given that the last of the dinosaurs

died out

about 65 million years ago,

none of us has ever actually

seen a living dinosaur.

So, how do we know what they looked like

and how can we be sure that

we're getting it right?

Here in Crystal Palace, in south London,

you can still see the first dinosaur exhibition

that was ever built

anywhere in the world.

The sculptures were unveiled in 1854.

It was the start of an obsession

that we've never got over.

But it wasn't long before the science

behind these reconstructions

had lost credibility.

Even by the end of the 19th century,

our ideas about dinosaurs

had changed so much

that these models were already

looked upon with scorn.

This megalosaurus, for instance,

is shown walking on all four legs,

but we now know he would have been bipedal -

he would have stood on just his hind legs

and his forelegs would have been quite small

and lifted right up off the ground.

When the first iguanodon was discovered,

only one thumb bone was found,

so palaeontologists thought

it must have been a horn.

But iguanodon didn't have a horn.

It's very easy to walk amongst

these massive models

and to laugh at the 19th-century idea of

what a dinosaur was like.

We now know so much more.

We've worked out a phenomenal

amount about the dinosaurs.

But how have we done that?

How do you start to get close to animals

that lived hundreds of millions of years ago?

From 19th-century London,

to 21st-century Los Angeles.

I want to know how we can be sure

that we're now getting it right.

So, I've come to LA's Museum of

Natural History.

The museum is undergoing major

redevelopment at the moment,

and at the centre of it all

is a multimillion dollar new dinosaur exhibit.

'Luis Chiappe is director of

the museum's Dinosaur Institute

'and curator of the new exhibition.'

- Hello, Luis. Hello.

- How are you?

- I'm very well. Nice to meet you.

- Likewise.

'He'll be packing it with everything

we know about dinosaurs,

'from the biggest to the smallest,

with the latest science

'on how they looked, moved and interacted.

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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    "How to Build a Dinosaur" STANDS4 LLC, 2023. Web. 28 Jan. 2023. <>.

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