Learning about little dinosaurs with weird teeth

Dinosaur Ridge weekly dino talks

Posted 2/21/17

There’s no proof that heterodonts ate meat, said Erin LaCount during her fifth Everything Dinosaurs talks on Feb. 17, at Dinosaur Ridge. However, they could have been omnivorous because they did have sharp canine teeth.

But it’s more likely …

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Learning about little dinosaurs with weird teeth

Dinosaur Ridge weekly dino talks

Posted

There’s no proof that heterodonts ate meat, said Erin LaCount during her fifth Everything Dinosaurs talks on Feb. 17, at Dinosaur Ridge. However, they could have been omnivorous because they did have sharp canine teeth.

But it’s more likely that perhaps they ate roots, bark and low-lying branches.

Heterodonts are a group of dinosaurs with specialized teeth. Their teeth are so weird because they probably had a really weird diet, said LaCount, who is Dinosaur Ridge’s education program coordinator.

“They’re unique enough that they’re interesting,” LaCount said, “but they’re not very well known.”

The first nearly complete skeleton of a heterodont was found in South Africa in 1962. The dinosaur lived up to the Jurassic period — about 199 million years ago. A second skeleton was found a couple years ago, also in South Africa, and paleontologists began the 3D scanning process in July 2016.

Heterodonts were little dinosaurs. They only grew to be about one-foot-tall and three-and-a-half-feet long, including its tail. They had short femurs and long shin bones, meaning they were runners. Heterodonts didn’t have spikes, horns, clubs on their tails or any other of these kinds of protector things, LaCount said, so most likely their defense was to just run away.

“I’m one of those who never grew out of dinosaurs,” she said, “they just get more interesting the more you look into them.”

Jennica Brady of Aurora is a working toward a master’s degree in geology, and decided to do some volunteer work at Dinosaur Ridge — something she’s been doing since January.

Brady has always had an interest in paleontology, she said, but the Everything About Dinosaurs talks will help her learn more about dinosaurs.

“It’s important to be knowledgeable for visitors,” she said. “It’s surprising how much kids know about dinosaurs.”

The Feb. 17 talk on heterodonts was Bradley Campbell’s first day of volunteering at Dinosaur Ridge. The Lakewood resident works at a bank and every employee is involved with volunteering somewhere, Campbell said. Sometimes it’s at a food bank or a day of service, he said.

But Campbell ended up at Dinosaur Ridge because he likes the mystery behind dinosaurs.

“We’re still learning about all this stuff that happened in the past, and how it informs us about the present,” he said.

But not only that — Campbell prefers that his volunteer time is spent doing something that he can be outside and help kids learn, he said.

LaCount, 32, began her career with museums as a volunteer when she was 12. She has been at Dinosaur Ridge for 15 years.

“I love teaching people things,” LaCount said. “You don’t have to have a PhD to learn new and interesting things about dinosaurs.”

LaCount would encourage everyone who has an interest in dinosaurs to volunteer at Dinosaur Ridge. LaCount especially enjoys engaging with people and having conversations with that common interest — dinosaurs.

When Blake Sullivan was 12 years old, he found a squirrel skeleton in his back yard. His mother wasn’t too happy about it, he said, but he took all the bones inside and reassembled it.

Sullivan, 29, has been involved with Dinosaur Ridge for a couple of years. He is in the midst of earning a bachelor’s degree in anthropology.

“I always liked digging in the dirt as a kid,” he said, “but I never thought of it as a career. But there has always been that interest there.”

Everything Dinosaurs , Erin LaCount , Dinosaur Ridge, Christy Steadman

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