The fossil hunter who inspired the main character in the 1993 blockbuster "Jurassic Park" will be talking about the fascinating "thunder lizards" today at the State Historical Museum in Des Moines. Montana paleontologist Jack Horner says dinosaurs ruled every continent on earth for 155-million years, but you’d be hard pressed to find any sign of them in the Hawkeye State.
Horner says: "Even though dinosaurs probably lived in Iowa, were covered up like they should have been, unfortunately, when the continents began rising because of the Rockies, Iowa was exposed and all of the right age rock has been washed away, so nobody’s going to come to Iowa to go dinosaur hunting." But the lack of T-Rex bones didn’t keep Iowans, and thousands of others, from pursuing careers in the field. Horner says paleontology, the study of prehistoric life forms, hasn’t always been "cool."
Horner says, "For many years, we got very few students interested, but when ‘Jurassic Park’ came out, the first one, that inspired an awful lot of kids into paleontology and that amount has not changed since then." Actor Sam Neill plays Dr. Alan Grant in the movie, the character inspired by Horner. The 60-year-old Horner was a technical adviser to filmmaker Steven Spielburg for the film, which won three Oscars and grossed 357-million dollars. He says it was amazing to be on set of such a high-tech production.
Horner says: "It was fun working with the computer graphics guys because I actually got to tell them how I think dinosaurs ought to look. Probably more fun than anything was working with the animatronics — puppeteer guys — because they were building life-sized models of dinosaurs that moved. They were pretty scary. If you were walking around some of these puppets when the puppeteers were operating them, they looked as real as real animals." Horner will speak, sign books and introduce the movie this afternoon at 4 o’clock.