NatGeo researchers identify Indian T Rex, celebrate discovery with 'Dino Week'

MUMBAI: "The work of a researcher has undergone changes in the television age. While the scientist or researcher himself is not as important as his discoveries, television has given a face to the discoveries," says dean of University Instruction and professor of Geology at Panjab University, Chandigarh, Dr Ashok Sahni.

Dr Sahni is in Mumbai with National Geographic's explorer-in-residence and paleontologist Paul Sereno who presented his latest discovery in India at a press conference in Mumbai. Sereno has identified a new species of stocky, carnivorous dinosaur from the bones collected near the Narmada river in western India. The creature has been named Rajasaurus Narmadensis (regal reptile from the Narmada).

After the presentation, Sereno returned the casts of the dinosaur skull to Dr Sahni to take back to Panjab University. The team at the conference included Sereno, his associate and paleontologist Dr Jeff Wilson, Dr Sahni and NGC's senior vice-president (Content and Communications) Dilshad Master.

Paul Sereno with the reconstructed skull of the carnivorous dinosaur Rajasaurus Narmadensis.

The team opined that Paleontology (or the study of fossils), in India has till date been the activity of a negligible group of people undertaking exploration in different parts of the country. Unfortunately, hardly any collaborative efforts are carried out to unearth fossils that create detailed images of any extinct species.

Serano said, rather hopefully, "With the success of our project, paleontology will gain significance and pave the way for more findings here." This will give an insight to ancient life -- life before even the Himalayas existed, he explained.

According to Dr Sahni, it is rather encouraging that channels like National Geographic are getting popular in a country like India. "In India, even a simple sport like white water rafting is not easily accessible to the common man. The only way they can become aware of the world around them -- and the world before them -- is through the television channels. Today people understand the concept of primitive reptiles and mammals, their living habits -- the general awareness is much higher. This is heartening."

Next week NGC will celebrate the discovery of Rajasaurus in India with a series called Dino Week at 10 pm, starting 25 August. This one-hour series will have five shows -- Super croc; Dinosaurs: Inside and out: The elite killer; Dinosaurs: Inside and out: And then there were none; The dinosaur dealers: Fossil fever and The Dinosaur dealers, stealing time.

According to Dilshad Master, "After Mission Everest, Dino Week is another series that puts the spotlight on recent research done in India. However, it will be a part of a larger show. We have not, and don't intend to, pitch shows that focus only on one country. Not unless it has an international relevance." Master added as an after thought, "Of course, if we come up with more findings about the Indian dinosaur, we will air it immediately."

The other significant show that NGC viewers can look forward to this week is the two-and-a-half hour Tricolor dreams on Independence Day. The show profiles three successful people -- herpetologist Gerry Martin, tiger conservationist Latika Rana and actor Hrithik Roshan -- to encapsulate various aspects of the Indian persona.

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