Originally aired on November 1, 2023
In this episode of Wondros, hosts Jesse and Priscilla interview Rob Gasto, an artist specializing in creating dinosaur fossils for museums. They discuss whether the dinosaur bones in museums are original or recreations, the challenges posed by distorted and mashed bones, and Rob’s personal journey from childhood fascination with dinosaurs to becoming a renowned dinosaur fossil artist. Rob also shares his experience of having a dinosaur genus named after him, how he developed his skills in sculpture and welding, and his process of restoring and reconstructing dinosaur skeletons. He explains the importance of accuracy in his work and the limitations he faces due to budget constraints and distorted bones. Rob highlights the role of paleontologists in providing guidance and references for his restorations. He also talks about the demand for dinosaur skeletons in Japan and his desire to see more unique and non-action poses in dinosaur sculptures. The episode concludes with a discussion on the future of paleontology and the ongoing discoveries and challenges in the field.
Are museum dinosaur bones original or recreations?
- Bones in major museums are usually original, while smaller regional museums often use cast material for accuracy and budget reasons.
- Original bones can be distorted and mashed due to being buried under sediment for millions of years.
- Original bones may not be suitable for mounting due to damage and accessibility for research purposes.
Rob’s personal journey and the dinosaur named after him
- Rob’s childhood fascination with dinosaurs reignited when he found a dinosaur that was later named Gastonia.
- Gastonia is a genus named after Rob, and the discovery led to Rob’s career as a fossil artist.
- His skills in sculpture and welding were well-suited for the occupation.
The process of restoring and reconstructing dinosaur skeletons
- Rob’s team uses high-quality plastic casts to ensure accuracy and prevent damage to original bones.
- Distorted bones can be reshaped through cutting, heating, and bending techniques, or by creating foam forms and taxidermy-like methods.
- Restorations can take from a few days to several years, depending on the complexity and condition of the bones.
Challenges and competitors in the fossil art industry
- The industry has seen a resurgence in dinosaur discoveries, resulting in increased demand for restorations.
- Rob considers other artists in the field as fellow professionals rather than competitors.
- The skills required for the job include artistic abilities, manual dexterity, and shop skills.
The fascination and impact of dinosaurs
- Dinosaurs capture the imagination due to their magnificent size and the intriguing worlds they inhabited.
- Rob prefers imagining dinosaurs in their natural environments rather than focusing on their interactions with humans.
- Movies like Jurassic Park provide entertainment and bring dinosaurs to the public’s attention, but Rob appreciates more alternative and unique depictions as well.
The future of paleontology and ongoing discoveries
- The field of paleontology will continue to discover new dinosaur species as construction projects and expansion uncover more fossils.
- However, illegal collecting and poaching threaten the preservation of fossils.
- Rob believes that our records and discoveries may be lost or altered over time, but the vastness of geologic time makes human impact seem insignificant.