Dinosaurs are dynamite

Budding palaeontologists were transported back to the Jurassic era to explore the intriguing world of dinosaurs in a once in a life-time science lesson at the University of Sheffield yesterday (28 November 2012).

Dinosaurs are dynamite

More than 900 youngsters from across South Yorkshire embarked on an intrepid journey of scientific discovery at the unique Dinosaurs are Dynamite event.

Gigantic dinosaur bones which towered above the children, massive footprints, fantastic fossils and a ferocious model of a T-Rex head helped the school children experience what life on earth was like millions of years ago.

The unique event, based on the famous Royal Society Christmas Lectures, was hosted by dinosaur expert, Professor Charles Wellman, Senior Lecturer from the University of Sheffield's Department of Animal and Plant Sciences.

"Children are always impressed by the sheer size of some dinosaurs and the fact that they lived on our planet so long ago and are now extinct," said Professor Wellman.

"This initial attraction however, leads to a deeper interest in earth's history and the evolution of life.

"My aim is to inform the children 'how we know, what we know about dinosaurs'. Youngsters are fed a constant diet of dinosaurs through the media depicted as beautiful life-like animations – but what I want to stress is that dinosaurs were real and what we know about them is through detailed and exciting scientific analysis of the fossil remains they left behind."

Professor Wellman wowed his enthralled audience with some fascinating dinosaur facts in an interactive lecture before the youngsters took part in a number of innovative activities and demonstrations.

Brooke Darby aged nine said: "I thought the event was absolutely brilliant - it was a lot different to our science lessons at school.

Fascinating dinosaur facts

  • The longest dinosaur was Seismosaurus, which measured over 40 metres.
  • The heaviest dinosaur was Brachiosaurus at 80 tonnes.
  • The tallest dinosaurs were the Brachiosaurid group of sauropods.
  • Sauroposeidon was massive and probably grew to 18.5 metres tall making it the tallest dinosaur.
  • The speediest dinosaurs were the ostrich mimic ornithomimids, such as Dromiceiomimus, which could probably run at speeds of up to 60 kilometres per hour.

"I learnt that the word dinosaur is a Greek word which means terrible lizard. I cannot believe how big the dinosaurs were."

The children came face to face with some of the dinosaurs' living relatives when they met some friendly reptiles and birds while musicians blasted some pitch perfect notes on their tubas to give the pupils some idea of what the dinosaurs sounded like.

Martha Selman aged nine said: "Dinosaurs were incredible creatures. It is really hard to believe that they used to walk around here on earth. I think I would be pretty frightened if I met one walking down the high street."

Professor Wellman, who has worked at the University of Sheffield for 16 years, said: "I became fascinated by fossils at a very young age. It was when my sister brought home a fossil shell she had found and someone explained to me what it was – an extinct organism from long, long ago. I began collecting fossil plants from local coal mines and I have been obsessed by all types of fossils ever since.

"I hope to inspire the next generation of scientists. The study of dinosaurs involves all sorts of diverse scientific approaches. It is truly interdisciplinary. Because children are gripped by dinosaurs they are an excellent tool to introduce children to a wide range of scientific enquiry.

"I hope this event will have brought dinosaurs closer to home and show local children the type of interesting research taking place at their local university. Secondly I hope that by listening to a real palaeontologist and touching the real bones the children will understand that dinosaurs are real and not just images in a book or on television."

Intrigued pupils

Ferocious T-Rex

Additional information

The University of Sheffield

With nearly 25,000 students from 125 countries, the University of Sheffield is one of the UK’s leading and largest universities. A member of the Russell Group, it has a reputation for world-class teaching and research excellence across a wide range of disciplines. The University of Sheffield was named University of the Year in the Times Higher Education Awards 2011 for its exceptional performance in research, teaching, access and business performance. In addition, the University has won four Queen’s Anniversary Prizes (1998, 2000, 2002, and 2007).

These prestigious awards recognise outstanding contributions by universities and colleges to the United Kingdom’s intellectual, economic, cultural and social life. Sheffield also boasts five Nobel Prize winners among former staff and students and many of its alumni have gone on to hold positions of great responsibility and influence around the world. The University’s research partners and clients include Boeing, Rolls-Royce, Unilever, Boots, AstraZeneca, GSK, ICI, Slazenger, and many more household names, as well as UK and overseas government agencies and charitable foundations.

The University has well-established partnerships with a number of universities and major corporations, both in the UK and abroad. Its partnership with Leeds and York Universities in the White Rose Consortium has a combined research power greater than that of either Oxford or Cambridge.


For further information please contact:

Amy Pullan
Media Relations Officer
The University of Sheffield
0114 222 9859