Science Museum of Minnesota: Ultimate Dinosaurs

Triceratops Horridus, the largest complete triceratops skeleton on display, a standard at the Museum for decades!

Triceratops Horridus, the largest complete triceratops skeleton on display, a standard at the Museum for decades!

Though it is now closed, I managed to check out the special Ultimate Dinosaurs traveling exhibit at the Science Museum of Minnesota last week. It was pretty awesome.

During my childhood, probably my biggest interest was, of course, dinosaurs. Like many children, something about the prehistoric creatures fascinated me to no end and I memorized the many species of dinosaurs and other prehistoric reptiles and mammals, and learned all I could about evolution and deep geologic time. While I was interested in nature and science in general, the mysterious and intriguing Mesozoic period was what i wanted to study most. Though there are no dinosaur fossils here in Minnesota, there are plenty of Cambrian fossil deposits in the Twin Cities where you can dig up brachiopods and crinoids, among other ancient creatures. I still have boxes of them from when I took a class from the Science Museum of Minnesota paleontologists and went out to the cliffs near the Mississippi in St. Paul to search the limestone bluffs for these ancient shells and fragments. I even hoped to go into paleontology to study fossils in order to piece together the ecosystems of the past. Sadly, though, my math skills were not up to the task of any hard science, so I followed the path from natural history to human history, where we could just avoid mathematics at all costs. My fascination for prehistoric life has kept with me, though and I could not pass up an opportunity to check out this special exhibit at the Science Museum of Minnesota before it packed up.

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An actual skull of Edmontosaurus, one of Canada’s most well known dinosaur species and featured prominently in the Royal Ontario Museum’s collections.

As a kid, probably my favorite place in the Twin Cities was the old Science Museum of Minnesota, a large rectangular building with rounded edges in downtown St. Paul, with a giant metal iguana out in front and cool stairs that made music when you walked on them. Nowadays, of course, the old Science Museum is now home to the Scientologists (a totally different use of the root word); the building which housed the dinosaurs, though, is now a part of the McNally College of Music. The Science Museum of Minnesota has had a pretty impressive paleontological collection, specifically dinosaurs, by itself for a state that contains no known Mesozoic fossils. The famous triceratops skeleton being most well known, (one of only four such fossils displayed in the world, and the largest of them as well) but also an impressive diplodocus and allosaurus, ancient crocodiles, and Pleistocene mammals.

Since 1999 the Museum has moved into it’s new and impressive home on the banks of the Mississippi, and expanded in space; in addition to a greatly expanded paleontology collection, they host some very impressive traveling exhibits such as last years fascinating exhibit on the Maya. This summer, the go to subject was the ever popular display of dinosaur skeletons, and as can be seen on TV spots and billboards around town, it was greatly hyped. It was a pretty good exhibit, if a little steep. In the end, the price might have been a little high, but for anyone at all interested in dinosaurs, it was well worth it.

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An unusual sauropod from South America, Amargasaurus is one I had never seen before.

Organized with the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto (a very awesome museum itself), the exhibit showcases reproduced mounted skeletons of twenty “new and exotic dinosaurs” from the Southern Hemisphere (known during the Mesozoic as Gondwana).  The exhibit focused on continental drift and had a lot of cool, hands on activities to explain how the breakup of the supercontinent Pangaea into Laurasia and Gondwana during the Mesozoic, and how this spurred a diversity of dinosaur species. Containing reconstructed dinosaur skeletons from a variety of rarely seen species from diverse areas of the globe, such as Ouranosaurus, Eoraptor, and Giganotosaurus, and some I had not even heard of before, like Cryolophosaurus, Rapetasaurus, and Amargasaurus there were some very good information.  The exhibit arranged the fossils by geologic period and geographic location, including Triassic Argentina, Jurassic Antarctica, and Cretaceous Madagascar. Not only dinosaurs were spot lighted; I particularly enjoyed the Simosuchus, or “pug nosed crocodile,” a short, stubby herbivorous crocodilian from Madagascar. In all, an informative and eye catching exhibition. For anyone with kids, or for anyone who has held on to their child like enthusiasm for the prehistoric, there was a lot to look at. If it moves to your city next, check it out! I am looking forward to seeing what the Science Museum’s next special exhibit will focus on.

From what I have been reading about recent findings, though, I am surprised we did not see any more feathers; I’ve been reading some books on paleontology lately, so stay tuned to my book blog Reading Rainstorm as I go into some discussion of paleontology.

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Cryolophosaurus, a large theropod from the Jurassic discovered in 1991 in Antarctica. One of the species featured by Ultimate Dinosaurs.


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