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8-year-old boy calls out NPR for lack of dinosaur stories

To make up for the oversight, the program invited the youngster to ask some questions about dinosaurs to a paleontologist at the San Diego Natural History Museum.

8-year-old boy calls out NPR for lack of dinosaur stories
Representative Cover Image Source: Getty Images (Mark Garlick/Science photo library)

For nearly 50 years, NPR's oldest news show, All Things Considered, has brought listeners some of the biggest stories of the day. With thoughtful commentaries and insightful features on the quirky and the mainstream in arts, life, music, and entertainment, the two-hour show is today the most listened-to, afternoon drive-time news radio program in the country. However, an 8-year-old from Minneapolis recently took umbrage with the show's content. In a letter to his local NPR station, young Leo Shidla wrote: "My name is Leo and I am 8 years old. I listen to 'All Things Considered' in the car with mom. I listen a lot."



"I never hear much about nature or dinosaurs or things like that. Maybe you should call your show 'Newsy things Considered' since I don't get to hear about all the things. Or please talk more about dinosaurs and cool things. Sincerely, Leo," the letter concluded. As NPR admits, Leo's observation isn't wrong. Upon investigation, the network's archivists found that the word "dinosaur" has appeared in All Things Considered stories only 294 times in the program's nearly five-decades-long history. To make up for the lost time and to "talk more about dinosaurs and cool things," All Things Considered invited Leo to ask some questions about dinosaurs to Ashley Poust, a research associate at the San Diego Natural History Museum.



Leo—who wants to be a paleontologist when he grows up—had some rather insightful questions for the expert, including what his favorite part about the job is. "The thing that's the coolest for me is discovery," Poust replied. "There's nothing better than being out in the field, figuring out where to go, and then looking down and finally finding a bit of a dinosaur sticking out of a hill." Being a paleontologist also means he gets to work "with a lot of really different, really interesting people," he added, "but also that exchange of thoughts and ideas like we're doing right now leads you to come up with really neat ideas about the history of the world and about these amazing animals."



Leo was also curious as to whether Poust has discovered a dinosaur himself. "I have," Poust revealed. "I would say that I hope to find many more in the future, but I've been able to name a few really cool fossil animals. Some of those were discovered by other people in the process of doing fieldwork or even construction. I recently named a dinosaur Wulong, from China. And that was discovered by farmers. I myself have gotten to do some really cool fieldwork in places like Montana and back in China, and I found things ranging from Tyrannosaurus teeth to dinosaur eggs."



The youngster also used the golden opportunity to interview the paleontologist to learn more about his favorite dinosaur: the Concavenator. Poust described Concavenator as a "really interesting animal with huge bones sticking out right up in front of its hips that give it this really sharp sail. It's a little smaller than, say, your T. rex or your Spinosaurus. A really tall person might have been able to look it in the eye, but if it reared up, it could easily shadow you. And it would be really scary."



"How did dinosaurs grow to be so big and why aren't humans and mammals the size of dinosaurs today?" Leo asked next. "These are the types of questions that keep paleontologists up at night," Poust admitted. "One thing is that dinosaurs are built different. They have weird bones compared to mammals. Giant long-neck dinosaurs, sauropods, actually have huge holes that are filled with potentially air-like sacs. And so that lightens their bodies and maybe gives them structural strength. They also grow different."



"And so mammals, of course, don't come from eggs," he continued. "We have to raise them and we're famously dependent on our parents. Maybe dinosaurs could lay lots of eggs and leave them and go lay lots of eggs somewhere else. They also grew really quickly. And so maybe they're able to grow to these enormous sizes by being pretty active. And that's one of my favorite areas of research. So they were built different. They grow different, but maybe they're not that different. Mammals get pretty big. Whales that are alive today are as big as anything the dinosaurs ever produced. And so don't sleep on whales."

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