With the release of “Jurassic World” — the latest in the “Jurassic Park” sci-fi adventure series –Matt Lamanna ’97, assistant curator of vertebrate paleontology at one of the top five dinosaur collections of the world, was recently interviewed by Trib Total Media and Live Science about the scientific accuracy of the new box-office hit.
“I think it’s an entertaining movie,” said Lamanna, whose research at Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh focuses on Cretaceous dinosaurs of the southern hemisphere and the Mesozoic evolution of birds. “Of course, I’m a biased observer, but there were moments where the whole theater erupted in shouts and cheers. I think that’s telling you something.”
“Some parts are cringeworthy,” he added, referring to some of the film’s less factually accurate moments. “But there are some parts that are spectacularly awesome.”
While the film doesn’t reflect recent discoveries about dinosaurs — “many dinosaurs evidently had feathers, or at least fuzz-like structures called filaments,” said Lamanna, who himself discovered a feathery species of dinosaur named Anzu wyliei, or what he described as the “chicken from hell” — the dinosaurs in the film are “not embarrassingly flawed either.”
“A creature that looks like a giant chicken just doesn’t look as mighty and threatening as a lizard-like beast,” added Lamanna.
Before his position at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Lamanna launched his education as a biology and geoscience double-major and received the Sigma Xi Scientific Research Society prize at HWS. He earned his Master of Science and Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. He has been featured in an A&E documentary “The Lost Dinosaurs of Egypt” for one of the most significant finds in recent paleontological history, his co-discovery of one of the largest land animals that ever lived, named Paralititan stromeri. He recently was the lead scientific adviser on the country’s third largest exhibit of mounted original dinosaur skeletons titled “Dinosaurs in Their Time” at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, where he helped to display dinosaurs in the context of the most current scientific research on the Mesozoic Era. He has visited HWS multiple times for public lectures and was the guest speaker in the President Forum Series titled “Hunting Dinosaurs on Four Continents” to share his global expeditions.
He has visited HWS multiple times for public lectures and was the guest speaker in the President Forum Series titled “Hunting Dinosaurs on Four Continents” to share his global expeditions.
The full text of the Trib Total Media article is below.
Carnegie Museum paleontologist gives ‘Jurassic World’ a thumbs up
Matt Lamanna recalls the thrill he experienced as a high school kid in upstate New York when the original “Jurassic Park” came out in 1993 and quenched the insatiable curiosity he’d had about dinosaurs since he was 4.
“I had already decided I wanted to be a paleontologist, but it had a big effect on me,” says Lamanna, assistant curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Oakland.
“I still remember seeing it for the first time and seeing that first Brachiosaurus … and thinking, ‘Oh my God, somebody finally put on the big screen what I had been imagining in my head my whole life,’ ” says Lamanna, 39, a native of Waterloo, N.Y. “It was a pretty magical moment. … I was so awestruck, I had to go back and watch it a second time.”
Lamanna, a self-described sci-fi and fantasy geek who lives in Seven Fields, Butler County, didn’t expect to enjoy the franchise’s latest entry, “Jurassic World,” as much as he did when he saw a preview this week.
“I think it’s an entertaining movie,” he says. “I could recommend it to friends if they’re looking for a good time. Of course, I’m a biased observer, but there were moments where the whole theater erupted in shouts and cheers. I think that’s telling you something.
“Some parts are cringeworthy,” Lamanna says, referring to some of the film’s less factually accurate moments. “But there are some parts that are spectacularly awesome.”
He says the dinosaurs portrayed in the Jurassic movies are relatively accurate historically, although this movie doesn’t update the dinosaurs to reflect what paleontologists have learned in the past several years: that many dinosaurs evidently had feathers, or at least fuzzlike structures called filaments. But the movie explains why its dinosaurs have scaly skin and look reptilian rather than birdlike: People want the traditional scary image.
A creature that looks like a giant chicken just doesn’t look as mighty and threatening as a lizardlike beast, Lamanna says.
“For most people, I think, this … image of a scaly, crocodilelike or snakelike (dinosaur) is more terrifying,” he says. “I would say they’re not totally accurate, but they’re not embarrassingly flawed either.”
Lamanna earned his Ph.D. and master’s degree in earth and environmental science from the University of Pennsylvania, and received his bachelor’s degree in geoscience and biology from Hobart College.
Some paleontologists complain about the fallacies in the movies, he says, but the shows are “supposed to be fun and opinion, not a textbook. It’s not a documentary. It’s a sci-fi movie. It’s entertainment.”