Dinosaur expert will speak in Malta


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A world-famous dinosaur expert will give a presentation Saturday in Malta, the home of a world-famous dinosaur.

Paleontologist Robert Bakker, author of "Dinosaur Heresies," has waived his usual $10,000 fee to lecture Saturday. Proceeds from his appearance will go to the Judith River Foundation, the nonprofit organization founded last fall to raise money to establish a dinosaur museum in Malta.

The premier dinosaur at the museum will be Leonardo, the duck-billed dinosaur found north of Malta now on display at the Phillips County Museum. Leonardo will be listed in the next Guinness Book of World Records as the best-preserved dinosaur ever found, said Nate Murphy, curator of paleontology at the Phillips County Museum.

Murphy, who is also research director at the Judith River Dinosaur Institute based in Malta, said people in the area will have a chance to meet and listen to one of the world's foremost experts on dinosaurs at Saturday's presentation. It begins at 5 p.m. at Stretch's Pizza.

"This guy is incredible," Murphy said. "He's probably the greatest communicator with the public in our science."

Bakker appears on PBS every week on the program "Bonehead Detectives," Murphy said.

Bakker's presentations are very entertaining as well as educational, said Sean Smith. Smith is director of the museum of paleontology in Glenrock, Wyo., which Bakker helped create about 10 years ago and continues to advise.

"He's one of the best educators in the field. He tries to make sure the audience is involved and responding," Smith said.

Murphy said Bakker, an acclaimed illustrator who does many of the illustrations in his own books, tries to involve children in the presentation. The lecture would be very interesting for students from about the fourth grade and up, he said.

Bakker draws dinosaurs while doing his lecture, Murphy said. As he completes each drawing, he asks children in the audience to identify the dinosaur. If a child can name the dinosaur, Bakker will autograph the drawing and present it to the child, Murphy said.

Bakker, who received his doctorate at Yale University where he studied under renowned paleontologist John Ostrum, has helped revolutionize perceptions of dinosaurs. "Dinosaur Heresies," published in 1985, presented his theories that dinosaurs were warm-blooded active creatures, rather than the slow-moving cold-blooded animals generally theorized.

"He shouted at the top of his lungs and everbody laughed at him," Murphy said. "'Dinosaur Heresies' is now considered dinosaur Physiology 101 in college."

Bakker could not be reached for comment.

The lecture is the first major benefit held by the Judith River Foundation. The foundation was formed in the hope of renovating a building in Malta, or constructing a new building, to house the paleontology exhibit that is rapidly outgrowing the Phillips County Museum.

One of the first fossils the institute found after it was established in 1992 was Elvis, a duck-billed brachylophosaurus discovered in 1993. It was considered the best-preserved dinosaur ever found in Montana until Leonardo was discovered.

Roberta, another brachylophosaurus discovered in the same area north of Malta where Elvis and Leonardo were found, may be displayed in the new museum.

Leonardo has been a topic of discussion around the world. The fossil, which shows skin, muscles and other soft tissue as well as the dinosaur's last meal, was discussed at the 62nd annual meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology. Murphy said an article about the fossil on the National Geographic Society's Web site had 2 million hits in its first 10 days.

Before the institute discovered Leonardo, scales and tissue parts had been found on less than one-tenth of 1 percent of dinosaurs excavated.

The presentationcosts $15 for adults, $25 for a couple, and $5 for children under 12. Pizza and pop will be served until 6 p.m. during an opportunity to meet Bakker. His presentation is scheduled for 6 to 8 p.m.


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