Walk like a dinosaur in wellies for science

UCC will have a stand at Cork City Hall on Saturday and Sunday

Dr Maria McNamara: The  palaeontologist is studying dinosaurs with the help of human volunteers. Photograph:  Tomas Tyner, UCC.

Dr Maria McNamara: The palaeontologist is studying dinosaurs with the help of human volunteers. Photograph: Tomas Tyner, UCC.

 

People will be encouraged to reveal their inner dinosaur at a Science Week event in Cork City Hall. It will separate the top predators from the scavengers and the slow-moving plant eaters, the organiser promises.

Walk Like a Dinosaur involves measuring leg length and stride distance and then getting people to strut their dinosaur stuff, explained Dr Maria McNamara of University College Cork.

A palaeontologist in UCC’s school of biological, earth and environmental sciences, she will apply the same formula used to study dinosaurs on her human volunteers.

“We are trying to tell the public how very simple features in rock [footprints left behind by a passing dinosaur] can tell us how it moved and this tells us about their behaviour,” she said. “A footprint from a dinosaur and the leg bones is all you need.”

The formula uses leg length and fossil footprints to show the stride, the distance between footfalls. “You measure the stride versus the length to work out the speed of walking or running,” she said.

Predators tended to chase dinner and had a wide stride that meant speed, up to 40 to 50kph, she said. Scavengers were much slower movers given they helped themselves to the leftovers uneaten by predators. So they didn’t have to move fast. The large plant eaters moved slowly but long leg length meant they could still travel at a decent pace.

UCC will have a stand at Cork City Hall on Saturday and Sunday and will ask visitors to don modified wellies fitted with dino feet.