Charlie is 10 years old and loves palaeontology. According to his mum, he has Asperger syndrome, so when he likes something he will "try and find out everything about it." Recently, he visited Britain's Natural History Museum and schooled the curators on their dino-knowledge.
Stegosaurus fossil at the Natural History Museum in London, England. (Photo: AP)
Artistic reconstruction of Corythoraptor jacobsi (Image. Zhao Chuang) As virtually every school-aged child knows, birds are descended from dinosaurs. But holy toledo, does this newly discovered oviratporid ever look like a modern cassowary — right from the dramatic crest atop its head through to its long neck and ostrich-like shape. The paleontologists who discovered the dino are now studying modern cassowaries to get a better sense of its potential behaviour.
Charlie was visiting the London museum with his family for their special "Dino Snores" event earlier this month. It's one of those sleepover nights that museums do these days. This offered Charlie an opportunity to really devour every wall label, and when he was studying a sign that described Oviraptors, he noticed that the museum staff made a error.
A silhouette on the label showed what was supposed to be a side-by-side comparison of a human and the dinosaur, but it actually depicted a Protoceratops. Charlie told his mum, Jade, but she was sceptical at first. "When he told us, we said, 'OK, we know you're good, but this is the Natural History Museum,'" she tells the BBC.
Still, the family notified the museum of the potential error. After checking in with the exhibitions team and the resident Earth Sciences paleontologist, the administrators were forced to admit their mistake. On Tuesday, the museum formally thanked Charlie for his contribution to scientific education. For comparison, here's the actual profile of an Oviraptor:
Maybe you're thinking "those dinosaurs are way different, I could tell you that." Maybe so, but you probably wouldn't know them by name like Charlie. The museum explained that the area had been "refurbished several times" and "an error has been made." Good work, Charlie.