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Prof. Jonah Choiniere on Paleontology, Ledumahadi Mafube and Jurassic Park


Jonah Choiniere is Professor of Comparative Palaeobiology at the Evolutionary Studies Institute of the University of Witwatersrand. Having relocated to South Africa, he's become integrally involved in the research institute at the forefront of some major discoveries in South Africa. In preparing for the latest Bingeing with Spling watch party of Jurassic Park, Spling found that a 12-ton dinosaur had been discovered in 2018. While this news generated a significant deal of interest in scientific communities, leading to a great number of research papers, it only amounted to a handful of mainstream news articles.

Shocked at the lack of interest from South Africa about research decades in the making, Spling decided to find out more information from the newsmakers themselves. After being referred to Prof. Choiniere, he managed to secure this Zoom interview, in which the two discuss paleontology in the real world, several major discoveries including the sauropodomorph Ledumahadi mafube*, South Africa as a goldmine of fossils and some misconceptions when it comes to Jurassic Park.

While the word "professor" conjures up a certain image, Choiniere breaks many of the stereotypes. Passionate, enthusiastic and committed to the study, he's able to unpack exactly what goes into the field of paleontology. Originally a student of archaeology, Choiniere's work as a paleobiologist has sent him across the world from the United States to China and South Africa. It's also easy to see how both sciences collide in Steven Spielberg's iconic Hollywood franchises, Indiana Jones and Jurassic Park.

*While Ledumahadi mafube looks like with a sauropod, the dinosaur grouping that includes the Brontosaurus, it's actually more of a cousin. Living some 200 million years ago in the region now called South Africa, this herbivore walked on all fours and weighed as much as two African elephants. The name is Southern Sotho and is translated a giant thunderclap at dawn. Read more...