I just saw Walking with Dinosaurs, the BBC’s new venture into the world of the feature-length film. Like the TV show that became popular in 1999, this production was beautifully executed. As a student of all things prehistoric by hobby and an educator by trade, I was excited to see how this venue might inspire others to further learning about the ancient dinosaurs.
Mostly this movie takes its viewers on an imaginary journey of a dozen or so creatures that called the land of modern-day Alaska their home. The reference to the aurora borealis helped lock the location into the movie-goers’ minds. But it also got me to thinking about the accuracy of the many pieces of information that went into telling this story. Because misconceptions and untruths run rampant because of error-filled media like book illustrations depicting sauropods living in swamps and the most famous of all, the Jurassic Park movies, Walking with Dinosaurs made me want to do some fact-checking.
The story’s main character is a “tiny” hatchling Pachyrhinosaurus named Patchi. Just by choosing this dinosaur as the main character, the filmmakers encourage deeper investigation. At first glance you think it’s a “not quite right” triceratops. And you’d be right. Pachyrhinosaurus is a relative of the more famous triceratops. It is a ceratopsian dinosaur.
Ceratopsian dinos have similar characteristics, the most notable being the bony frill at the top of the head and the beak on the tip of their snout. Horns placed on the head and face are also common.
Pachyrhinosaurus is a relatively new find: 2006 in Alaska. This was remarkable since most paleontologists considered Alaska too cold for the warm-blooded, reptile-like dinosaur. Evidence of huge herds is found in fossilized track ways that show migration across the Alaskan landscape.
Dinosaurs of this type have been found around the globe, but the first one was discovered in 1872 by F. V. Hayden, an American geologist. His initial find in Wyoming, USA, was excavated by famous paleontologist, Edward Cope. Cope’s partner turned rival, Othniel Marsh has the distinction of choosing the name for this new group of dinos: the Ceratopsia. This group is a suborder of the Ornithisian or bird-hipped dinosaurs.
There’s something almost cute about these dinosaurs with their fancy frills that stand up behind their faces. Pachyrhinosaurus was chosen as the mascot for the Arctic Winter Games held in Alberta 2010. A bright green triceratops is friend of the big purple dino on Barney and Friends. The Colorado Rockies baseball team’s big purple triceratops mascot, named Dinger, may be the most widely recognized of them all.
Walking with Dinosaurs may not receive great reviews for its cinema, but it offers up lots of opportunities for inspired learning among a young audience and their parents. For my part, I’ll offer up some connections that can be used by teachers to encourage and motivate their dino-loving students. Stay tuned for more!