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2008-10-06 – Speciale televisivo per seguire la preparazione di un teschio di dinosauro (PBS, “Arctic Dinosaurs”, Alaska, Pachyrhinosaurus dinosaur skull excavation


PBS special to follow Dallas scientist’s dinosaur skull excavation

 12:00 AM CDT on Monday, October 6, 2008 By MARK NORRIS / The Dallas Morning News

 Dinosaurs and cold weather would seemingly go together like oil and water.But a Dallas-based paleontologist is working to explain how these creatures could have lived in freezing temperatures – and bringing added visibility to Dallas’ Museum of Nature & Science.

Tony Fiorillo, curator of earth sciences at the museum, will be featured Tuesday on PBS’ NOVA: Arctic Dinosaurs. Crews followed him as he led expeditions to northern Alaska in 2006 and 2007 to unearth 70-million-year-old dinosaur fossils.

The national broadcast, occurring before the second presidential debate, is big publicity for Dr. Fiorillo and the museum.

“It gives us a chance to show what this museum does,” Dr. Fiorillo said.

Nicole Small, chief executive officer of the museum, said the exposure is a “spectacular opportunity for the city of Dallas.”

She said the program, which includes footage in Dallas, highlights the research that goes on out of the public eye.

Dr. Fiorillo, who has a doctorate in vertebrate paleontology, has been with the Fair Park museum since 1995 and began work on the arctic dinosaur project in 1998.

Weather has been the biggest hurdle in Alaska. Mid-June through mid-August is the only time for research in the area, which is well north of the Arctic Circle. But even the short summer season can be instantly slowed by bitterly cold winds.

Film crews who followed Dr. Fiorillo and his team were present for the discovery of the skull of a pachy-rhinosaurus, an herbivore that was a distant cousin of the more familiar triceratops. Its total length was 20 to 25 feet, and its skull is roughly the size of a typical desk.

Dr. Fiorillo found the skull on the ledge of a cliff that sticks out 300 feet. After excavation, the skull was plastered, wrapped in burlap, put in heavy-duty netting and moved from the site by helicopter.

“It’s the most nerve-racking part,” Dr. Fiorillo said.

The specimen made its way to Dallas for cleaning and reconstruction after a series of plane and truck rides.

Ron Tykoski, who has been working at the museum and with Dr. Fiorillo since 2005, is the one who delicately works to remove the parts of the skull.

“Still lots to do and learn,” Dr. Tykoski said. “The skull is slightly damaged.”

The scientists expect to find more answers about what happened to the dinosaurs once the reconstruction is done and analysis can begin. Work on the skull has been going on for two years.

Dr. Fiorillo hopes to have it and other fossils from Alaska exhibited within a few years.

“It should be a display-quality specimen,” he said.

One possibility for an exhibition space includes the facility the museum is set to build on the southern edge of Victory Park. Construction is slated to begin next year, and Ms. Small said publicity from the PBS special can brand the new facility as one where the newest and most current research will be displayed.

“This is a major, major stepping point for us,” she said.



Program description:

TV Program Description
Original PBS Broadcast Date: October 7, 2008

Most people imagine dinosaurs lurking in warm locales with swamps and jungles, dining on vegetation and each other. But a new NOVA documentary reveals that many species also survived and thrived in the harsh environments of the north and south polar regions. This program focuses on two high-stakes expeditions and the paleontologists who push the limits of science to unearth 70 million-year-old fossils buried in the vast Alaskan tundra.

NOVA takes viewers on an exciting Arctic trek as one team of paleontologists attempts a radical “dig” in northern Alaska, using explosives to bore a 60-foot tunnel into the permafrost in search of fossil bones. Both the scientists and the filmmakers face many challenges while on location, including plummeting temperatures and eroding cliffs prone to sudden collapse. Meanwhile, a second team of scientists works high atop a treacherous cliff to unearth a massive skull, all the while battling time, temperature, and voracious mosquitoes.

The hardy scientists shadowed in “Arctic Dinosaurs” persevere because they are driven by a compelling riddle: How did dinosaurs—long believed to be cold-blooded animals—endure the bleak polar environment and navigate in near-total darkness during the long winter months? Did they migrate over hundreds of miles of rough terrain like modern-day herds of caribou in search of food? Or did they enter a dormant state of hibernation, like bears? Could they have been warm-blooded, like birds and mammals? Top researchers from Texas, Australia, and the United Kingdom converge on the freezing tundra to unearth some startling new answers.

The experts featured in the program shed light on dinosaur biology as they carefully craft theories about life cycles, environment, weather, and extinction. NOVA travels with paleontologist Tony Fiorillo to excavation sites on the North Slope of Alaska, to unearth a unique skull from the lip of a cliff that threatens to slide into the Colville River far below. (See The Producer’s Story for filmmaker Chris Schmidt’s behind-the-scenes take on his journey to this site.) Robert Spicer, an expert on prehistoric flora, ingeniously reconstructs the dinosaurs’s environment by studying fossil leaves and suggests that the “veggie” dinosaurs had a plentiful menu of plants to pick from.

More clues come from other scientists. An expert in fossil footprints and trails, Steve Hasiotis, concludes that Alaska was once a warmer, wetter, and lusher environment than previously imagined. And South African researcher Anusuya Chinsamy-Turan examines thin cross-sections of dinosaur bones shipped from Alaska to help determine whether the animals were warm-blooded, which was probably essential for them to have survived the harsh winters.

Finally, the program touches on the ultimate implications of dinosaur survival. Did a catastrophic asteroid impact 65 million years ago wipe out the dinosaurs, as most people now believe, or did more gradual ecological changes play an equally decisive role in their demise? Like a good detective story, “Arctic Dinosaurs” fingers new suspects in its search for answers to the extinction riddle, including massive volcanic eruptions, shifting continents, and a gradual climatic chill—the opposite of today’s global warming. Throughout, the documentary brings the world of arctic dinosaurs vividly to life through compelling computer-generated imagery.

Arctic Dinosaurs

  • The Producer’s Story
  • Watch the Program
  • Video Preview
  • Online live date
  • ottobre 6, 2008 - Posted by | - Ceratopsidi, - R. Dinosauri, America Northern, Paleontology / Paleontologia, TV, Video | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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