Monday, June 13, 2011

Dallas Museum of Nature and Science

When Cyn and I were up in Dallas for BooksmART, we took an afternoon to go see the Dallas Museum of Nature and Science.  At the moment, the museum is actually in three buildings, formerly the Museum of Natural History, the Museum of Science, and the Children's Museum, in Fair Park, just across from the Cotton Bowl.  A new facility is currently being built in Victory Park.  Check out the new digs here.  

The dinosaur paleontology exhibits are spread between the Nature Building and the Science Building.

The Science Building has a "Dino Pit," where kids can "dig" for dinosaur bones.  Looming above the sand boxes is a T.rex and a Quetzalcoatlus.

Author and pterosaur
In the room next door are various displays of Alamosaurus bones, as well as other creatures from the Texas Mesozoic.  One of the more interesting exhibits is of a bird called Flexomornis howei, discovered in the Woodbine Formation of Texas (about 93-100 million years ago).

Author and bird
Over at the Nature Building, paleontology displays include a Malawisaurus (discovered by researchers from SMU), ammonites and other sea creatures (including the primitive mosasaur Dallasaurus), and Deinosuchus.

Greg and Deinosuchus skull

The basement of the Nature Building houses the prep lab, where paleontologists are presently at work preparing a new Alamosaurus for display.  It's my understanding that this Alamosaurus is proof that this genus was a lot larger than previously thought...

Alamosaurus being prepped

In addition to the permanent exhibits, the Dallas Museum is host to any number of traveling exhibits.  Presently, they have "Chinasaurs," an exhibit of some of the extraordinary fossils that have been uncovered from China and Mongolia.  The exhibit is arranged chronologically, with a room dedicated to each of the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous Periods.

The stegosaur Tuojiangosaurus
I had the chance to see some dinosaurs I'd never seen in person before, including Psittacosaurus, which was a lot smaller than I'd pictured it:
Really small Psittacosaurus

Perhaps most significant of the recent finds was the discovery in 1995 of Sinosauropteryx, the first dinosaur found to have had feathers.  Although hypothesized as early as the 1970s, this was the first definitive proof.  Other dinosaurs in the exhibit that have been found to have had feathers include include Caudipteryx and Microraptor.

Author and Caudipteryx
In addition, they have a pair of Velociraptor, which hasn't yet been found with feathers, but whose fossils have been found to exhibit what are probably "quill knobs," i.e., attachment points for feathers.

Greg and Velociraptor
Other dinosaurs in the exhibit include the extremely long-necked sauropod MamenchisaurusLufengosaurus, Bellusaurus, Dilophosaurus, Monolophosaurus, Pachycephalosaurus, Szechuanosaurus, Tsintaosaurus, Oviraptor, and the sheep of the Cretaceous, Protoceratops.  In addition, they've got some good displays of dinosaur eggs and nests.

The exhibit is a mix of skeletons and animatronics. I'm not crazy about the animatronics, because they never look quite right to me.  With this exhibit, the theropods in particular seemed a bit too large and "thick bodied," and Oviraptor and Velociraptor should have feathers.  Still, they're kind of fun and there's something about seeing the creatures with "flesh" that makes you appreciate them as actual animals.

The Chinasaurs exhibit will be there until September 4, 2011.  The web site includes some terrific information, as well as a Teacher Guide [pdf].

1 comment:

Donna said...

Who doesn't love dinosaurs? Sounds like a great summer road trip. Thanks for sharing.

Glad you and Cyn took advantage of the detour opportunity:)

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...