A passion for dinosaurs in Horsham

Dinosaur aficionado Ben Garrod became passionate about dinosaurs at the age of three '“ a passion absolutely undimmed all these years later.

The only difference is that he can back it all up with rather more knowledge now as he goes on the road with his hit stage show So You Think You Know About Dinosaurs (Capitol, Horsham, Wednesday, March 14, www.thecapitolhorsham.com).

Ben, an evolutionary biologist, primatologist, broadcaster and a teaching fellow at Anglia Ruskin University, will talk audiences through the deadliest predators that ever roamed the planet 65 million years ago such as tyrannosaurus rex, allosaurus and spinosaurus.

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For Ben, and for millions of us, dinosaurs will never lose their attraction. Ben puts it down to a unique combination of factors: dinosaurs fire our imagination, but they also fire our sense of scientific questioning.

“We love finding out about them, but we still think it would be pretty cool to have a tyrannosaurus rex running through our garden!”

Ben admits to being geeky about dinosaurs. As he says, he is still a geeky child – albeit one now trapped in an adult’s body.

“I remember the first time I found a fossil, up on a north Norfolk beach. I was three, and we found this tiny fossilised shell. We didn’t know what it was. It was the days before the internet. We had to look it up in the library and ask teachers.

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“And it turned out to be a 200 million-year-old squid relative. I just couldn’t imagine it swimming around 200 million years ago. It was just amazing!”

In that moment, Ben was hooked. He confesses to being a strange child. On one occasion on a school cross-country run, he found a seven-foot dead shark – which he brought back to the school for dissection. It was a world which had become his passion – and it is a world we are still finding out about, refining our images as we add to our knowledge.

“We used to think of tyrannosaurus rex, this big superhero of the dinosaurs, as a big green scaly thing that roared. But our knowledge has changed, partly with new fossils being found. We know now that a lot of the predatory dinosaurs were very brightly coloured and had feathers. We are getting a better picture all the time.”

And the better picture makes them all the more interesting…. Which makes it all the more of a shame that we lost them?

Ah, but Ben’s point is that we haven’t.

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“Just look at birds. We were always taught to see birds as distant descendants of dinosaurs, but there was a big reclassification about five or ten years ago. Now we consider birds more as modern-day dinosaurs…”

Age guidance: the show is aimed primarily at key stage 1 and 2 (ages five-12) but suitable for all ages.