David Weishampel started out to do a little research to advise Johns Hopkins Medical Instiutions on buying dinosaur toys, and came away with some advice for the makers of books, toys and movies: Consult the experts.
Few dinosaurs dragged their tails and many had muscular legs with feet, "not just telephone poles with little blobs at the end," said Weishampel, 36, a Johns Hopkins School of Medicine anatomy professor and paleontologist.And despite depictions of dinosaur-hunting cavemen, "the last dinosaur departed the earth 65 million years ago. The first prehistoric human existed roughly 4 million years ago. No way did cave men or women clobber dinosaurs."
Weishampel's role as protector of the saurian image hasn't come easily. After all, his 3-year-old daughter Amy collects dinosaurs and 8-year-old Sarah enjoys last year's dinosaur movie, "The Land Before Time." He doesn't want to be a spoilsport, even though the film portrays known plant-eating dinosaurs as "real killing machines" that attack babies, and shows them with ears.
With the field in a vigorous state, he said, "if dinosaurs really excite kids and it's a good way to get them educated, do it right."