Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Austin Dinosaurs: Sarahsaurus, the Dino Pit, and the Hartmann Prehistoric Garden

Last October, I ran a post about the Texas Memorial Museum, UT's natural history museum. But that's not the only place in town for dinosaur-related activity:

The Hartmann Prehistoric Garden (Austin, TX) is an entire garden in Zilker Park devoted to Mesozoic plants that have survived to the present. You can get up close to cycads, gingkos, magnolias, cypresses, dawn redwoods, and more ferns than you can shake a stick at.

The Garden was inspired by the discovery of ornithomimid footprints on the site in the early 90s, so they decided to run with it (pun intended). It's a pretty spectacular experience, beautiful and oddly strange, when you think about the fact that these plants have been around for hundreds of millions of years. Also, the pond you see above has gar and other fish that trace their ancestry back to the Mesozoic, as well.

And it sits in the shadow of Mopac Expressway. Although you can't see the cars, you can hear them, which makes for an interesting juxtaposition.

Right next door is the Austin Nature and Science Center, which has its own Dino-Pit, an outdoor paleontology exhibit where kids can "dig" for their own fossils. They'll "find" casts of fossils from the Pleistocene, the Cretaceous, and the Permian.

Oh, and what's a Sarahsaurus? It's this guy:

It's a sauropodomorph found by University of Texas paleontologist Tim Rowe in Arizona. It's from 190 million years ago (early Jurassic), when dinosaurs were just getting started...And it's named after Sarah Butler, the Austin philanthropist who was instrumental in raising funds for the Dino Pit.

Here's a nice article in the Statesman. And here's a link to a PDF of the official paper, from the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Photos were taken by me; Sarahsaurus graphic is from the Statesman.

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