Jane’s visitors

When Burpee Museum’s paleontologist, Mike Henderson, formally submits in text to the scientific community his decision on what Jane is or isn’t, who is best qualified to scientifically scrutinize, critique and/or rebut part or all of Mike’s conclusion? Obviously, it’ll be experts on tyrannosaurs, but a couple of scientists you’d think qualified won’t weigh in on Mike’s conclusion because of a lack of credibility given them by fellow peers.

Your everyday dinosaur lover would bet the house that Robert Bakker and Peter Larson would be two of the judges pounding their gavels on the long, oaken Jurassic judgment table.

Peter Larson, founder and director of The Black Hills Institute, found and evaluated Sue, the biggest and most complete Tyrannosaurus rex ever found. The Black Hills Institute did this as a commercial endeavor, as said Institute is a commercial entity.

Traditionally, dinosaur hunting, excavating and placement is a nonprofit endeavor fitting of large educational institutions.

Peter Larson wanted and needed a profit for his tremendous accomplishment, and this brought scrutiny from the ivy towers, the Sioux Nation, the BLM and the FBI.

Larson lost his prize dinosaur and went to jail, but years later became a commercial success because of it. Despite being a storehouse of T. rex knowledge and an energy power grid for paleontological innovation, Larson’s credibility is limited because of his commercial success.

Robert Bakker, on the other hand, dares to put his cutting-edge theories to the public in best-selling books. His thinking doesn’t bypass fellow dinosaur paleontologists, but his public at times seems more important.

Bakker is a product of the times, and he seems to be correct 19 out of 20 times, which scientifically takes him from theory to fact. How dare he make videos and star in shows for the Discovery Channel and PBS that make it easy and fun to learn about dinosaurs? Science must be slow, methodical, conservative, obsessive and boring. Wake up, dinosaur paleontology, Larson and Bakker are trying to tell you something.

Then there are the Toms-Tom Holtz and Tom Carr. Tom Holtz is a paleontologist and professor who heads the Paleontology Department at the University of Maryland. Holtz is also an expert on Tyrannosaurus rex anatomy. Tom Carr is also an expert on T. rex anatomy. He is a doctoral student at the University of Toronto and temporary curator of the traveling Feathered Dinosaurs of China exhibit showing at the Royal Ontario Museum.

Both are conservative, hard-working scientists who spent several days in late March examining Jane and a plastic cast of a Gorgasaur given to Burpee from the L.A. Museum of Natural History. Carr is famous for his work on the Cleveland Nano skull, which he has stated is a young T. rex. Carr was most excited to examine Jane, and on average, spent 16 hours a day during his four-day visit examining, discussing and photographing Jane.

Both scientists have a unique technique of examining bones. They use a more subtle approach that allows them to see and feel things by touching the bones. By using these methods, subtle correlations are discovered. Holtz and Carr are conservative, methodical scientists with enough respect and credentials to make them Jane rebuttal candidates.

Burpee can count its blessings because Holtz, Carr, Larson and Bakker show up for extended periods to examine Jane. Holtz and Carr can bring traditional scientific credibility to Burpee’s prize, while the more flamboyant Larson and Bakker add elements that attract young learners and network television film crews. Burpee is traveling the right paths.

There is one more path that Burpee should take that parallels the Bakker-Larson path. It’s the path to Stephen Spielberg’s script of Jurassic Park No. 4. A Nanotyrannus type in that movie would ensure Jane stardom.

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