Wednesday, August 22, 2018

The Dinosaur Museum, Blanding, Utah

We were hesitant about visiting the Dinosaur Museum, but what a great museum it turned out to be. We were told that the person who donated the bones and skeletons are paleontologists who collected the specimens from around the world and donated them to the City of Blanding, which then built the building to house the dinosaur exhibits. This place is a must visit, if you are in this area. 

Giant Atlas Beetle

Giant Ammonite
Ammonites, also known as cephalopods, are sea-going mollusks which resemble the multi-tentacled squid or octopus. However, the numerous tentacles, or arms, of the ammonites were comparatively short and without suckers. They lived in coiled and segmented shells which protected their bodies. They lived mostly during the Jurassic and Cretaceous Periods and almost went extinct 65 million years ago along with the dinosaurs. The only surviving ammonite is the comparatively small Nautilus which is a "living fossil" that rarely exceeds 6" in diameter. This specimen has a diameter of over six feet and is one of the largest known. It was found in Germany.

This large 360 pound meteorite fell in Namibia, South Africa. At 4.5 billion years old, it is the oldest object in the museum and is part of the original stellar matter of our solar system. It is composed of iron and nickle as is much of the core of the earth. 

One theory of the dinosaurs extinction is that a giant meteorite struck the earth and caused a nuclear winter which impacted the plants and entire food chain. While a giant meteorite could cause tremendous destruction, there were also many other forces at work which were responsible for the dinosaurs extinction.

Plate tectonics would have played a great role as the plates composing the crust of the earth have continually shifted, relocating entire continents, uplifting mountain ranges, and draining seaways. At the end of the Cretaceous Period, continental drift had changed the world's climate and global environmental conditions which would have significantly contributed to the end of the dinosaurs.

Permian Logs
These fossil trees date back to the Permian Period, approximately 275 million years ago. They were petrified as much as 50 million years before the first dinosaurs appeared. Only six Permian logs are known to exist in all of North America, and these three trees represent the largest from their time period. Virtually all other petrified logs in the four corners region are much younger in age, and are from the Triassic or Jurassic Periods. Discovered in San Juan County, the full identification the trees and indepth studies of the site remain ongoing. These are the only Permian logs on public view making this exhibit unique in North America.

Animals living under the Permian trees. A sail-backed pelycosaur splashes after a reptile-like amphibian. Two Diadectes and the amphibian remain atop a fallen log.

This skull of a primitive mammal-like reptile is from an animal called Estemmonsuchus. It was found in Russia and lived during the early part of the Middle Permian Period. It was a large and bulky animal which fed mostly on plants. The only known skin impressions of any mammal-like reptile are from the Estemmonsuchus. These rare skin impressions revealed that their hide was not scaly like other reptiles, but smooth and more like the skin of modern day mammals.

Protorosaurus is the earliest known archosauromorph from the Upper Permian Period of Europe. While technically considered too primitive to be called a dinosaur, animals such as Protorosaurus were ancestral to true dinosaurs such as the prosauropods and later sauropods. They lived approximately 260 million years ago. Fossilized stomach contents reveal that despite its sharp, pointed teeth, it was an omnivore which ate both plants and animals.

This fellow is a prosauropod dinosaur. The giant long necked sauropods, popularly known as "brontosaurs," are descended from the prosauropod dinosaurs. In the past, prosauropods were protrayed as walking on two legs. Now they are considered as walking on four legs. Remains of prosauropods are known from the Late Triassic and Early Jurassic Periods between 190 and 215 million years ago. The remains of Plateosaurus are known from Germany and others have been found on all continents except Antarctica.

This dinosaur is a primitive meat-eater best known from Argentina. It lived during the Late Triassic Period, about 225 million years ago. It was one of the earliest ancestors of all the carnivorous dinosaurs which later diversified and evolved into giants such as the Allosaurus from the Jurassic Period and Tyrannosaurus of the Cretaceous Period. Fragmentary fossil remains of Herrerasaurus have been discovered in southwest United States, which suggests that it probably had a much broader distribution, possibly even worldwide.

This small dinosaur is well known from complete skeletons of numerous individuals. Most of these remarkably preserved specimens are from a single quarry of northern New Mexico. Notice the bones within the rib cage. These small bones represent the last meal of this animal, which happened to be a smaller Coelophysis. This dinosaur is a primitive coelurosaur which lived during the Triassic Period about 215 million years ago. Fragmentary remains of other coelurosaurs have also been found in Asia, Europe, South America, and Africa indicating that these continents were connected so as to allow broad distribution of these, as well as other dinosaurs, during this time.

This is a rare dinosaur known by only two specimens from the four corners of Arizona. It lived during the Early Jurassic Period about 200 million years ago. It is a large, but lightly built, coelurosaur with a characteristic long neck. While some coelurosaurus are known to possess two small ridges of bone on the top of their skulls, Dilophosaurus is equipped with two remarkably tall and fragile bony crests on its skull. As with all dinosaurs, it was not poisonous, did not spit, and did not have an expandable frill on its neck.

This skull is from the largest of only three individuals known to exist. It lived over 140 million years ago along with Allosaurus. Both large meat-eaters fed upon giant plant-eaters, such as the long-necked sauropods and armored stegosaurs. It had a prominent horn above its nose which distinguishes it from Allosaurus. Ceratosaurus also retained many comparatively primitive characteristics, such as a four-fingered hand, which clearly show that Ceratosaurus and Allosaurus were only distantly related.

Sauropod Vertebrae
These bones are from the back of a large undescribed sauropod, popularly known as Brontosaurs. They were found in Utah and demonstrate that significant discoveries of new and previously unknown types of dinosaurs are yet to be found. This animal probably had a total length of between 70 to 80 feet.

The Allosaurus is the Utah state fossil. Abundant remains of this large carnivore make this one of the best known of all dinosaurs. Different sized animals have been found representing stages of growth from small, young individuals to huge, aged beasts which rivaled tyrannosaurs in size. However, most remains are from animals approximately 22 feet in length. This life-size, fleshed out model of the Allosaurus represents the state of the art in what is known about meat-eating dinosaurs. It was the first to incorporate the proper skin texture which is composed of distinctive concial studs. It was created by Stephen Czerkas from 1984 to 1986 for the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.


This shoulder blade was discovered in 1972 by Dr. James Jensen from Brigham Young University. Measuring just over 8 feet, this scapula represented the largest known dinosaurs until Dr. Jensen found another shoulder blade in 1979 from the same dry Mesa Quarry in Colorado, which was over a foot longer. Since then, several sauropods have been discovered in Argentina and China which are even larger than the Supersaurus. Supersaurus was an extremely long sauropod, resembling Diplodocus, and could well have been over 120 feet in total length.

Dinosaur Collection from the 1950s

I had some of these growing up. My friend Karen and I would built little houses in the dirt and play "dinosaurs." We had lots of fun.

Stegosaurus -- the rubic's cube of dinosaurs. For over a hundred years there has been a controversy as to how the bony armored plates were positioned upon the Stegosaurus. Initially, there were numerous concepts of what the Stegosaurus might have looked like. Based upon one nearly complete specimen which still had the plates in their original natural positions, two conflicting theories have been responsible for how stegosaurs were depicted. Both theories agreed that the bony plates were aligned in two rows. But these theories differed in that the two rows were placed in either a paired or alternating position. The nearly complete specimen clearly shows that they were preserved in an alternating pattern. However, since no animal is equipped with two rows of alternating dermal structures, the theory of the two rows with paired plates was largely accepted instead. This is despite the fact that no two plates are of the same size or shape. Also, an extra 2 to 15 plates have been erroneously added to support either theory.

In 1986, a new variation of the alternating theory was published by Stephen Czerkas. The significant difference was that the bony plates were aligned in an alternating pattern in a single row, instead of two rows. Also, 17 plates were suggested to be the total number instead of the over-estimated 19 to 32.

Numerous lizards living today show that a single row of dermal spikes can develop an alternating pattern as they grow, increase in size, and crowd together. This strongly suggests that a single row, instead of two rows, is the most natural possibility to explain how an alternating pattern of plates existed on stegosaurus. The recent discovery of a second Stegosaurus which is virtually complete appears to verify this interpretation. It also confirms that 17 is the total number of bony plates.

This dinosaur belongs to a group of horned dinosaurs called ceratopsians. The back of the skull on horned dinosaurs has a shield or "frill" which protected the neck. There were many kinds of ceratopsians which all had horns arranged in different ways. Basically, the horns were over the nose, eyes and along the frill, but they varied in shape and size. These herbivorous animals used their large beaks and strong teeth to shear through tough plant materials. Ceratopsians lived in North America and Asia during the Cretaceous Period.

Mummified Ibis
Early Egyptians mummified many types of animals. Sometimes it was done to preserve a beloved pet, but more often, they were used as religious offerings. The sacred Ibis bird was dedicated to Thoth the god of wisdom, knowledge, and learning. Ibis were mummified in great numbers and four million were found in the catacombes of Tuna-el-Gebel, Hermopolis. The Ibis Cult reached its peak between 450-250 B.C. Egyptian mummies were popular during the Victoria age, and this Ibis is from the "Collection of a Lady, Miss Adele de Wint."

 At heights of about four feet tall, the Shoebill Stork is a large predatory bird dwelling in the dense swamplands of east tropical Africa. Its diet consists of lungfish, eels, catfish, Nile monitor lizards, and small crocodiles.

Giant Katydid

Several skeletons of Tarbosaurus have been found in Mongolia. Tarbosurus is closely related to the more familiar Tyrannosaurus rex of North America. The Tarbosaurus skeleton is shown in a fast running pose, trying to escape the grasp of the huge arms of another carnivorous dinosaur, Deinocheirus. The rest of the Deinocheirus skeleton has not been discovered, and remains a mystery. If not for the discovery of the arms of Deinocheirus, there would be no knowledge that such a remarkable dinosaur ever existed. This demonstrates that any fossil, even a single bone or incomplete part of the skeleton, may represent something new to science.

The King Kong Brontosaur

This is the original that was used as the Brontosaurus in King Kong and the more fanciful sea beast in Son of Kong. It is very unique because it was designed like a stop-motion model, but modified with cables so that it could be used for live-action photography. This was necessary for scenes in which the model had to rise out of the water and splash about while attacking the actors. The "actors" in these scenes were also miniature puppets that were loosely jointed so they would move naturally as the dinosaur tossed them about. Behind the scenes photographs show the model during the actual filming of the sequence in Son of Kong.

When the incomplete skeleton of Therizinosaurus was found, it was thought to belong to a giant turtle. But with the discovery of more complete skeletons of smaller, related forms, we have a much better idea of what it really was. Its enormous size may suggest a dinosaur. However, impressions of feathers have been found on smaller specimens from China which indicate that Therizinosaurus may actually be a gigantic flightless bird -- one of the largest that ever lived. It depends on whether it had a flying ancestor. If so, then it is a flightless bird. If not, then it is a feathered dinosaur.

Non-Feathered Deinonychus
These sculptures were originally made between 1986 and 1989 with a scaly hide based on fossil skin impressions from other dinosaurs. When Deinonychus was first described in 1969, it was thought to be a bird-like dinosaur and a possible ancestor to birds. Now it is known that Deinonychus itself had ancestors that flew -- flying dromaeosaurs -- which makes it a form of flightless bird instead of a dinosaur. Had Deinonychus been found after the discovery of fossil flying dromaeosaurs in China, scientists could not have thought of it as a scaly dinosaur, but as a bird that had lost its ability to fly.

Feathered Deinonychus
This sculpture was made in 2001 based on new information from Chinese fossil birds. They demonstrated that Deinonychus should now be considered a flightless bird, not a scaly dinosaur, so it is correct to show them with feathers. When Deinonychus was first described in 1969, it was thought to be a bird-like dinosaur and a possible pre-bird ancestor in the evolution of birds. Had Deinonychus been found after the discovery of the Chinese flying dromaeosaurs, scientists could not have thought of it as a dinosaur, but as a flightless descendant of flying dromaeosaur birds.

Mummified Edmontosaurus
This rare duck-billed dinosaur mummy was discovered in 1910 in Wyoming. It is one of two collected by the famous Sternberg family. There is a large patch of skin from the side of the animal with more on the neck, along with the backbone, and on both hands. The skeleton is not crushed, but preserved naturally in the round. The original fossil is in the collection of the Seckenberg Museum in Germany. The mummified fossil tail belongs to the same species, but from a different specimen. The skin includes a row of dermal spines along the top. It is also from Wyoming, and is on permanent loan to the museum from the Pacific Union College of California.

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