The Facebook page of the National Dinosaur Museum(located in Canberra, Australia), has just released a nice little video tour of Evolving Planet that Phil Hore, one of the main people involved with the remounting of Sue, has recorded. So, here’s Sue, as of May 12, 2018.
After my efforts to portray the Paleozoological Museum of China in the most accurate and up-to-date way possible, I took another look at the PMC’s website. Guess what I found?
That’s a virtual tour of the PMC right there. And you know what I’ve found? That my photographic memory sucks. There are so much things I’ve missed, and with the murals along each floor, I can finally cover them accurately now. Most of the large signage is present in these tours, and this version of the museum is up-to-date, as all of the displays match up with the 2014 renovation. The truth is, when I took all those photos of the PMC’s displays, I had no idea that I would start up this site. So, I never thought to take photos of large sections of the displays. I think the place in the museum that I butchered the most was the Shu-Hua Museum of Paleoanthropology, which honestly sounds a lot less grand than it actually is, in my description of it. However, the bad thing about a virtual tour is that it’s sometimes hard to distinguish what is real from what the editors have added in. So, now, I’m left wondering whether that 2-D image of Ikrandraco is actually in the museum or not. Anyway, I’m going to be editing the five pages drastically, and adding a lot of details.
Big cast mounts, a world tour, and rarely displayed dinos? This almost feels like Ultimate Dinosaurs(you know, that touring exhibit with a bunch of Gondwanan dinos). However, something else is featured here. Here, it’s all about everybody’s favorite dinosaurs, the tyrannosaurs. This exhibit premiered in the Australian Museum, which produced the exhibit, and went on a tour through New Zealand, Canada, and now, the USA. Now, there was quite a bit of relief throughout the exhibit for me. First, let’s go back to Ultimate Dinosaurs, which was at the SCI a few years back. I didn’t realize it then, but apparently the SCI was too small for the menagerie of mounts that the exhibit brought. So, a lot of unique mounts, such as Cryolophosaurus, Massospondylus, and Eoraptor weren’t exhibited. Thankfully, that’s not what happened here. Every mount planned for the exhibit is exhibited, other than an Alioramus that apparently never was displayed outside of Australia and New Zealand. Now, onto the actual exhibit.
Just like a few years back, in Ultimate Dinosaurs, an object from the exhibition is placed at the front entrance. For Tyrannosaurs: Meet the Family, it’s a one-sided model of a Tyrannosaurus head, featured in the above image. It does resemble a model that’s at the Australian Museum, which isn’t one-sided, and sometimes decides to devour John Pickrell. That makes sense, because the Australian Museum did produce Tyrannosaurs: Meet the Family. The actual exhibit starts further into the SCI near the atrium. In a rather box-looking structure, it’s a Guanlong diorama.
The best thing about Tyrannosaurs: Meet the Family is that almost all models of dinosaurs that had feathers are actually feathered. And the filament types are actually all generally right. There aren’t any over-the-top flight feathers or anything really extravagant on Guanlong, which is great. The background and diorama looks beautiful, and it actually feels like you could just step in, and be immersed in a dinosaurian world. This would probably be one of my favorite dinosaur models of all time, if it weren’t for one thing: the immensely pronated hands. Almost everything else is perfect, so, just, why?? Looking at the hands again, the hand now looks a lot like the foot. Now, let’s talk about signage.
Throughout the exhibit, there is a basic format of the name of the animal in big bold yellow letters, a size comparison next to a person(not really sure that’s necessary when you’re standing next to skeleton mounts), the time it existed, and some other info. The signage is well-placed, and is located so that you basically have to look at the signage when you get close to the display. There’s also utilization of touchscreens, which usually isn’t that helpful, but here, the screens teach stuff that the signs never could, and provokes visitors to find the distinctive features of each animal. However, the CGI models on the computer have worse pronated hands than the actual model. One thing that does feel a little weird is the little section of “Likes” and “Dislikes” on the sign. This seems to be focused on “millennials who are always glued to devices”, but it just feels weird. It is nice that they mention Yangchuanosaurus, if it weren’t for the fact that Guanlong and Yangchuanosaurus probably didn’t coexist. But, you know, they both lived in Middle/Late Jurassic China, so they must have coexisted. Anyway, the sign does mention feathers, which deserves applauding once again(although I would have preferred the use of the word “filaments”). Off to the side, in much smaller font, it describes the model itself, which is off an adult Guanlong, about 12 years of age, which is a level of detail rarely seen in exhibits with models and just museums in general. Moving on, into the atrium of the SCI, pretty much half(if not more) of the exhibit is displayed.
The first thing is a giant touchscreen with the phylogeny of the tyrannosaurs(at least a version of it). Oh, and there’s also some tyrannosaurs running amok(it’s actually just a lot of the same two CGI models). It’s in a video game style, where you have to identify the tyrannosaur(and apparently kill a bunch of crates). It’s actually just a version of the app game Tyrannosaurs: Meet the Family which released by the Australian Museum during this exhibit’s world premiere, and is currently only available in Australia. Now, this would be educational if not for one thing: little kids have no idea that this is supposed to teach them anything. So, the display is reduced to a bunch of elementary schoolers just swiping and tapping at the screen as hard as they can, and the screen being reduced to a pile of crates sitting everywhere. There’s also the other problem of the game not responding to touch half the time. Well, at least it’s an effort to teach phylogenetics to the general public. Luckily, there’s some signage nearby that explains it all, so people don’t have to kill a bunch of crates to get info. Onward, into the actual atrium. Now, there are four skeleton mounts. Let’s start with the smallest.
Believe it or not, peoples, this is not a baby T. rex, but a Dilong! In fact, it says it on the sign next to the mount! All you have to do is rotate your head a bit to the side and use your vision! All jokes aside, however, there are really a lot of adults who walked over to this mount, and told their kids that this was a baby T. rex. Anyway, it’s a Dilong mount, which is almost never seen in any museums. One reason for that is that the original Dilong fossils are all crushed(but beautifully preserved), and it’s not very easy to reconstruct a crushed skeleton, much less make a full skeleton mount. Now, some of you may be thinking, Where’s the third finger? Dilong had three fingers! If you look closely, you’ll see that the third finger is actually there, it’s just very oddly positioned, and is almost scrunched up against the second. Now, on the signage, the exhibit uses a different restoration of Dilong‘s skull than in the actual mount itself. This other restoration can be seen right here. This mount takes the more popular approach(although, there are certainly well backed-up other approaches) of reconstructing the flattened skull of Dilong after the coelurosaur Ornitholestes. Anyway, for the little “likes and dislikes” thing the exhibit’s got going on, the “like” of Dilong is “Hunting Birds, Mammals, and Lizards”. For “dislikes”, the quote is “Being Called Fluffy”. Now, the good thing here is that they actually clarify that the “feathers” of Dilong are protofeathers, or filaments(as I like to call them). It is stated that this is a cast, and says that this cast is in the collection of the Australian Museum. However, it does not say which specimen this cast is based off of. Now, when I went there, my first instinct was to lean on the sign and try to take a thousand photos of this thing. First, it’s probably one of the only times I’ll ever see a Dilong skeleton, and second, Wikipedia needed an actual good image of a Dilong skeleton mount. It was always infuriating when my camera focused on the skeleton mount behind the Dilong just milliseconds before it took the shot, producing several pictures of a blurry skeleton. Onto the next mount, the “gore king”.
First, Tyrannosaurs: Meet the Family must be applauded for including some very obscure genera in the exhibit(you’ll see more of what I mean later). Lythronax was probably chosen because of its status as the oldest known tyrannosaurid(and tyrannosaurine). It’s in a standard standing pose, yet the overall feel of the mount is still very active. Again, it’s a skeleton cast replica, just like all of the mounts in the exhibit. For some odd reason, the orbits(those little rings in the eye hole) are included in this mount, but don’t show up in the exhibit again until the final stretch or so. Of course, orbits are welcome on any mount, but here, if you look at the Lythronax from just the right angle, it becomes really derpy. One of the best things here is that even though this is a skeleton cast, the reconstructed portions of the skeleton(which is the majority) and the casts of the original bones of the type specimen can be easily distinguished. The bones that belonged to the type specimen of Lythronax are easily marked out by their much more rough look in contrast to other bones. This is especially significant in the pubic bones, which are kind of eroded at the edges. Now, looking at this mount, there is a sense of scale established between all four of these mounts. First, Lythronax looks smaller because of the size of the other tyrannosaurids featured here. It almost seems like the display is ascending in size…but that’s only if you start by looking at the Dilong mount. This Lythronax mount is also unique because it actually isn’t roaring and has an almost closed mouth for once. Now, almost every single tyrannosaur mount has either a open, roaring, mouth, or is attacking some unfortunate hadrosaur or ceratopsian(or sauropod). This is just a Lythronax casually looking to the side, living life normally. Onto signage. This sign actually goes into the finer details of Lythronax, like the specific distinctive features of the animal. (Also, in case you’re wondering, the “likes” and “dislikes” of Lythronax are “Being The Oldest Member Of My Family” and “Still Feeling Like T. Rex‘s Younger Sibling”, respectively.) One of the best things on this sign is that they actually say which parts are completely reconstructed, and which parts of the Lythronax skeleton are casts of the original Lythronax material. For me, I spent way too much time simply gazing and looking at all the bones and armature of this mount, until that field trip group showed up and started screaming, “LOOK, ITS A T.REX!” Now, onto Daspletosaurus.
When I first saw photos of this mount, I thought, Wait, that’s a Daspletosaurus skull? Really, that’s probably only because I’m most familiar with the FMNH Daspletosaurus, which has become the staple image of Daspletosaurus for me. Anyway, the mount is posed in one of many standard roaring poses, with this one being reminiscent of that T. rex roar in Jurassic Park. It also looks quite similar to the FMNH mount, but with open jaws instead. One thing to note is the presence of gastralia(which I’ll leave to others to decide if they’re placed correctly). Next to the Daspletosaurus are two tibiae from Daspletosaurus. They represent a juvenile and a “near-teen” Daspletosaurus, and are meant to show the growth rates of tyrannosaurs. Personally, I would have rather seen one of these displays, but next to the T. rex, as the growth rates of T. rex are far more dramatic than the growth rates of Daspletosaurus. However, the fact that they even touched on growth rates is good enough. Now, onto the sign. First, it seems that they made a little boo-boo. This mount is labeled as a cast of an original specimen mounted at the Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Resource Center in Colorado. The thing is, the RMDRC’s website gives no mention of any Daspletosaurus mount, and if you do search up “daspletosaurus rocky mountain dinosaur resource center”, it does come up with a skeleton, but one that looks very different.
So, where is the original specimen. Well, we’ll get back to that on the next mount. Let’s look at the other parts of the signage for now. For “likes” and “dislikes”, they are “Ruling North America’s Food Chain”, and “Being Mistaken For Gorgosaurus“. The second one is a nice nod to the original status of Daspletosaurus, when Charles Sternberg assigned specimens from Alberta as a species of Gorgosaurus. Daspletosaurus wasn’t erected as a genus until 1970, when Dale Russel reassigned these specimens. The first one, however, isn’t really right. First, Daspletosaurus is known from two places, Alberta, and Montana. Montana has only yielded the much more recently erected species D. horneri, while the species this mount is from, D. torusus, is only known from Alberta. In fact, it coexisted with the much more common and similarly sized Gorgosaurus. Due to the fact that Gorgosaurus was so common and that it thrived in Alberta, D. torusus probably was not the ruler of North America. One cool thing about the original specimen(that this is a cast of), is that a tyrannosaur tooth(probably Gorgosaurus or another Daspletosaurus) was found embedded in this specimen’s hip, and a part of this specimen’s hip seems to have been “chomped out”(in the words of the sign). Onward we go, to the fourth(and last) mount, Albertosaurus.
My initial reaction at seeing this mount was, Holy crap Phil Currie was right. What I mean by that, is that Gorgosaurus and Albertosaurus are really different. Currie clams that there are as many differences between Gorgosaurus and Albertosaurus as there are differences between Daspletosaurus and Tyrannosaurus. The reason he says this is because there are quite a lot of researchers who do believe that Gorgosaurus is a species of Albertosaurus. However, looking at the skull shape of this Albertosaurus sarcophagus, it becomes clear that they are in fact very different animals. Now, the mount itself is obviously posed to emphasize the legginess of Albertosaurus, as that’s what basically is always used to define Albertosaurus. It’s definitely one of the most dynamic mounts of any tyrannosaurid. The mount, like the Daspletosaurus, includes gastralia, which seem a little more well-placed this time. Alright, let’s go back to the little mistake on the signage of Daspletosaurus. On the signage under the Albertosaurus, it states that the original specimen is owned by the Museum of World Treasures in Wichita, Kansas(yes, owned, the museum is a private organization). However, when you look at photos from the Museum of World Treasures, two tyrannosaurs show up: their Tyrannosaurus specimen(nicknamed “Ivan”), and a Daspletosaurus. Any albertosaurines? No.
Now, so, where is the original specimen of this Albertosaurus? Why, at the Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Resource Center, of course!
Anyway, the “likes” and “dislikes” of Albertosaurus are “long-distance running” and “sharing name with a word used for ‘coffin'”. The second one is a nod to the specific epithet of A. sarcophagus, which simply means “flesh-eating”. The sign also refers to the famous fact that a large group of Albertosaurus was discovered in Alberta, implying, but not confirming, that tyrannosaurs gathered in packs. It also gives a rather negative(but subtle) criticism of Henry F. Osborn, noting that he studied skulls by “cutting skulls open with a saw”. Hey, you can’t criticize Osborn the giant bigot like that! Anyway, moving on. Let’s talk about the giant display of skulls.
Now, let’s talk about each skull here, starting from the left. This is actually a skull of one of the most under-represented tyrannosaurs in museums, Appalachiosaurus. Now, I took great delight in viewing this skull, as it’s not likely that I’ll ever embark on a trip to the McWane Science Center in Alabama, where a full skeleton is displayed(albeit with hilariously oversized arms). Now, Appalachiosaurus was that one tyrannosaur that people looked at, and said, “Hey, look, it’s a long-armed tyrannosaur for once.” Unfortunately for the McWane Science Center, Appalachiosaurus likely had short arms like its relatives. Appalachiosaurus is also the only non-tyrannosaurid tyrannosauroid skull on display in this space, as all the other skulls are of more derived tyrannosaurids. Here, the signs are mainly replaced with screens, which actually work better in this case, since they save space and can cover all the taxa represented here in one screen. However, the teeth of the visual of this Appalachiosaurus skull are unusually colored a shade of red, for some unknown reason. Anyway, the next skull is another cast of the Daspletosaurus mount already in the exhibit, which is kind of a waste, really. Why would you choose to display two of the exact same thing in the exhibit? Why not go for a different tyrannosaurine, such as Bistahieversor? Not only did they display the same object, but they literally kept the same open-mouthed roaring pose. It really is just a big lack of creativity. Anyway, moving on, we have the skull of Teratophoneus, another genus of tyrannosaur rarely displayed in museums. Teratophoneus looks really small next to the giant heads of the other tyrannosaurids, which makes sense, since Teratophoneus only reached about 20 feet in length. The signage here shows which parts of the skull are reconstructed, and which parts are casts of the original fossils of Teratophoneus. The one thing I must nag on is that they use that evolutionary term…what was it again? Oh, yeah, the term is “primitive”. Now, calling anything primitive in evolution is basically saying there’s some hierarchy in evolution, which isn’t true at all. Now, the next one is a giant skull, it’s narrow, and it’s not T. rex. So, what is it, kids?
This is a skull cast of Tarbosaurus, which was a first for me, although there are quite a few Tarbosaurus casts and original skeletons on display throughout the world. One of the good things about this display is that the variation of binocular vision can be easily seen throughout these groups. For example, Appalachiosaurus has almost no binocular vision, but Tarbosaurus, has very good binocular vision. This cast is of a specimen collected in Mongolia during the days of the Soviet Union, and is currently owned by the Paleontological Institute in Moscow. The signage addresses the “Tyrannosaurus bataar” debate, and seemingly puts it to rest, with the mention of the great difference in neural pathways of the skulls of both Tarbosaurus and Tyrannosaurus. Anyway, onward, to another redundant skull.
First, let me tell you a story. In the not-so-distant past of 2014, the Smithsonian fossil halls closed for renovation. There were three sloths on display: Eremotherium, Paramylodon, and another Eremotherium. One Eremotherium and Paramylodon will not be returning when the new fossil halls open, in 2019. This cut was made to reduce redundancy. People obviously criticized removing these original specimens. However, here, the exhibit has ascended to a new level of redundancy: displaying the exact same specimen two times. And doing this not just once, but twice. They could have simply replaced the Daspletosaurus skull, with, say, a Gorgosaurus, and replaced the Albertosaurus skull with that of Alioramus or Qianzhousaurus(both represent a truly unique branch of tyrannosaurs, the alioramins), but no. Also, they also made the same boo-boo they made on the signage of the Albertosaurus mount, labeling it as coming from the Museum of World Treasures. Let’s now talk about the display on the other side of the atrium.
Again, just like what happened with Guanlong, even though the models had feathers, they had immensely pronated hands. Also, the presence of pennaceous feathers on the arms of Dilong is a little erroneous, as Dilong probably only had primitive filaments. This display is called “Beware the Cousins!”, and is interesting, because Dilong is presented as a “cousin” of the tyrannosaurs, when actually it is more tyrannosaur-like than Guanlong, which is presented as a tyrannosaur. The models themselves don’t look as spectacular as the Guanlong display, but I imagine that they would look a lot cooler in the halls they were meant for. The signage here introduces coelurosauria, and a skeleton of a phylogeny relating tyrannosaurs to avians. However, the presence of the now-dubious genus Troodon is probably not the best, but that may just be a product of the fact that Tyrannosaurs: Meet the Family probably was produced before Troodon as a genus was name dubious. Now, going out of the atrium, and turning to the left, the exhibit continued. Remember that the atrium wasn’t the intended display space for Tyrannosaurs: Meet the Family, and the entire exhibit was intended to be in a single large gallery. Unfortunately, the SCI has nothing of the sort, so half of the exhibit is split.
First, it took a heck ton of time for me to get in this place. That was because a whole elementary school of kids chose to take a field trip to SCI. Luckily for me, they didn’t invade the atrium, so I was free to take photos(until 5 kids come over and start screaming like a group of 15 kids). Unluckily for me, half of the school chose to spend an hour inside the actual space intended to house the exhibit. So, first, I walked into the corridor leading to it, where yet another tyrannosaur phylogeny was hung. 5 kids ran out, and one of the teachers ran after them, yelling. So, I waited a while, and then finally went in the space. First, there is a timeline of the history of tyrannosaur discovery, with everybody’s favorite bigoted curator, Henry Fairfield Osborn. Anyway, I turned to the right, and the sound of kids screaming became increasingly deafening. I still got a faraway look at the mounted skeleton cast of a T. rex, which was a cast of the massive specimen nicknamed “Scotty”.
First, it was exceptionally dark, so not really that optimal. Second, at first, for some reason I didn’t know at that point, there were a thousand kids sitting in front of the T. rex. Then, they started screaming and running around. This was because the exhibit chose to animate the shadow of the skeleton, making it look like the skeleton had a living shadow. Once all the kids left(finally), I could finally get closer to the skeleton. This mount felt really big in this exhibit. In fact, it felt quite a bit bigger than the dismantled mount of “Sue”. This is due to how this mount is displayed. The Tyrannosaurus is stretched to its full height here, and the space here is a lot less than the giant main hall of FMNH that “Sue” was displayed in. I suppose another reason that this mount feels larger is that it’s a cast of the Tyrannosaurus specimen “Scotty”, found in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan, and currently displayed at the T. rex Discovery Center. It’s well-known for being possibly more massive than “Sue”, in terms of weight. For better or worse, they scarcely actually talk about Tyrannosaurus rex as a species, and instead give lots of good info about “Scotty” the specimen. For size, however, the size range of T. rex is apparently listed as 12-14 metres(39 feet to 45 feet). 14 metres is definitely on the high side, unless they’re referring to that stupid UCMP 137538 toe bone. Anyway, the main reason that there is a lack of material on the signage under the mount is that basically half of the exhibit(in this designated display space) is dedicated to “T. Rex: The Ultimate Predator”, as the exhibit likes to call it. One cool thing from FMNH is a small game where you’re supposed to piece together a T. rex skeleton, namely that of “Sue”. It’s not a complete copy, as the screen is considerably bigger. There’s also the darkest display in the world, where there’s supposed to be a brain cast of a Tyrannosaurus braincase. Unfortunately, it’s literally impossible to see this thing.
In this horribly dark section, however, there was one thing that shone out for me. They actually addressed the “Nanotyrannus” issue, and “settled” it, although a lot of people would love to argue about that. They display a cast of the skull of “Nanotyrannus”(the Cleveland specimen, according to the labels).
Now, this is not the Cleveland specimen of “Nanotyrannus”. This isn’t the skull of the “Jane” specimen, held at the Burpee Museum of Natural History, either. This is in fact a skull cast that the Australian Museum has purchased from Triebold Paleontology Inc, a for-profit organization that specializes in providing casts, fossils, and mounts to museums around the world. Again, this is probably another mix-up on the wording of the sign. Let’s now delve into the most deafening noise in the world: elementary kids running amok in front of a projection screens.
First, let me say one thing: projection screens, where you can see AR dinosaurs running around, are stupid. There is absolutely no use here for any education at all. It’s just there for the sole purpose of entertainment. Sure, you could argue that it gives a sense of scale, but that’s not needed when there are literal skeleton mounts right behind you. Here, it plays a constant recording of some Guanlong and Dilong running around the room, and then a Tyrannosaurus stomping in and roaring, provoking kids to scream. It’s honestly weird to see these kids all sitting in front of the screen, and barely paying attention to anything else, including the literal mount of Tyrannosaurus rex. Moving on from all that screaming, there is a table of touchable fossil casts. These include multiple skin textures, which are simply reconstructions of what the skins of various dinosaurs may have felt like, not casts of actual skin impressions. There is also a massive Triceratops tibia, which is nice to see, because it means that they’re giving attention to dinosaurs outside of Theropoda. Of course, it’s expected, since Triceratops is the ever eternal enemy of Tyrannosaurus. There’s also a giant cast of a tyrannosaur coprolite with bits of teeth visible, and a touchable brain cast, which is great, considering the other brain display is too dark to see. The next display includes three mounts, the star of which is a skeleton mount of a chicken.
First, this display is obviously about bird evolution, going from Avimimus to the chicken. It shows a evolutionary diagram which is kind of disappointing, considering the phylogenies built earlier in the exhibit are very good. This phylogeny uses the old term “carnosaurs”, and is a single line directed towards a high point of finally evolving into birds. The mounts however, are a lot better than that weird phylogeny. Parts of the arm and the hip are colored yellow, showing the transition from dinosaur to bird. Meanwhile, Avimimus is a very famous dinosaur that is rarely displayed in museums. It’s crucial to the story of feathers in dinosaurs due to the early discovery of attachment points for filaments on its bones, even before the famous Liaoning discoveries. Dromornis, on the other hand, was a giant flightless bird from the Miocene epoch. This is a clear choice for the exhibit, as it’s one of the most famous prehistoric icons of Australia. Now, the rest of the space in this display area is occupied by something that is a little less childish, but still pretty much meaningless in terms of education. It’s a long hall with screens showing tyrannosaurs running throughout Des Moines.
Anyway, this leads into a smaller, much brighter, hallway. The area right before a turn tells about paleontologists and researchers that have been especially influential to tyrannosaur research, such as Xu Xing, O. C. Marsh, and Phil Currie. After the turn is a long hall with many movie posters and toys, all tyrannosaurs living in pop culture.
This is actually one of the most important things about tyrannosaurs that this exhibit touches on. It is crucial to explore why the tyrannosaurs became so iconic, and how much they have dominated pop culture in the last century. After all, the popularity of tyrannosaurs is one of the main reasons that this exhibit was made, to show people the tyrannosaurs beyond the infamous T. rex. In fact, the logo of the exhibit is a Guanlong, far from what normal people imagine when they think of tyrannosaurs. It is a nice display to cap off the whole exhibit. Initially, I almost missed it, due to it being so hidden. At the very end of the hall, there is a small voting station where you’re supposed to vote on your favorite tyrannosaur(guess who won).
Overall thoughts? The main problem I had with this exhibit was just the whole way it was organized. The exhibit was intended for a large special exhibit hall, but that’s just not what SCI has. It’s too small, in many respects. So, you have displays displayed where they’re not meant to be displayed, and the intended story that the exhibit’s producers is mixed up. However, it’s still a lot better than what happened with Ultimate Dinosaurs, and nothing was cut from the exhibit specifically for the SCI’s available space. Although I do wish that Alioramus mount was never taken off exhibit once the exhibit hit North America…
Everybody knows Sue. Whether you’re a dinosaur enthusiast or not, you have probably heard of the famous T. rex specimen FMNH PR 2081. For everybody living under a rock, here’s a brief profile of Sue.
In Summer of 1990, a team from the Black Hills Institute, a private corporation specializing in excavating, preparing, and selling cast replicas and original fossils, found a extremely complete Tyrannosaurus skeleton in the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation. The skeleton was spotted by Susan Hendrickson, who the name “Sue” comes from. After the BHI collected the specimen, they began preparation of it, in hopes of displaying it in their museum in Hill City, South Dakota. However, the FBI seized the fossil after Maurice Williams, a member of the Sioux tribe, claimed that the BHI had taken the fossil illegally. After many legal trials, the government gave “Sue” to Williams. Williams decided to auction off the specimen at Sotheby’s. Many people, especially museums, worried about the fate of the fossil. They knew that it might end up in a private collection, and be inaccessible to the public and researchers. The Field Museum in Chicago contacted numerous donors, namely Disney and McDonald’s, and won the auction. They paid a staggering $8.36 million for “Sue”, the highest price ever paid for a fossil. “Sue” now became FMNH PR 2081.
The Field Museum mounted “Sue” by the Summer of 2000, and unveiled the skeleton with a lifting of a curtain. This mount was created by Phil Fraley Productions. It remained in its place for 17 years, until February of this year. That is because “Sue” is moving. Up a flight of stairs, that is. At the time, I’m writing this, “Sue” has already been completely dismantled, and the entire display is gone. The skeleton has been moved upstairs, to the Evolving Planet exhibit, the Field’s current fossil hall. “Sue” will take up the space formerly occupied by the 3-D theater(I had always wondered why they never showed movies anymore). Last year, I saw that part of the Triassic section in “Evolving Planet” had been closed to the public, and that they were “working on a new exhibit”. Idiotic me thought that it was preparing for the “Antarctic Dinosaurs” exhibit, which will be coming this Summer(in a exhibit space downstairs). Right now, there is a little glass window where the remounting can be seen taking place. She will have an updated pose, and inaccuracies with the old mount will be fixed. But the old mount looks perfect, you say. Well, it’s definitely not. The most striking inaccuracy is how far apart the coracoids(that is, the circular section of the bone that the arm attaches to) are too far apart. Another thing is that the wishbone is incorrectly mounted. The ribs are bowed out too much, which is a common problem of Phil Fraley mounts. One other thing is that in the new mount, the gastralia will be added. These are the “belly bones”.
In 2000, FMNH had no idea where the gastralia were placed, so they simply weren’t mounted. Well, now, we know where they’re supposed to be. So, they’ll be mounted. Now, let’s talk about the actual new mount itself.
I’m hoping that it’s just the angle of the picture, but that new mount looks very awkward. Now, I’m not going to really go in depth about the anatomy of the mount, because that’s for more knowledgeable people to do, but the new mount just looks weird. It may be just the pose of the mount or the CG render(probably the latter), but aagh. Now, let’s look at the actual skeleton being mounted at this very moment.
From what we can tell from the armature, the mount will be in a standing pose, just like the render shown above. However, it looks like the neck will be turned to the left, and the head will be held high. This will probably give “Sue” a more regal pose. The mount also looks really freakin’ big. This is probably due to the tighter space that the mount will be in. Back in the main hall, the size of “Sue” is diminished by how giant the main hall is. Now, onto what is actually coming in the main hall.
Well, if you haven’t noticed, there is going to be a massive sauropod in the hall by this Summer. It will be a large, touchable, cast, of Patagotitan. Y’know, that sauropod that everybody said was the biggest ever discovered(it’s only the biggest dinosaur that’s well-known from fossils). It will be stretching its neck to peek into the balcony, and real fossils of Patagotitan will be displayed near the mount. This is actually the third mount of Patagotitan to be unveiled, and the second to be displayed publicly in a museum. The first mount was mounted in an Argentinian hanger, and the second was unveiled at the American Museum of Natural History in 2016. Unlike the vast majority of the population, I’ve already seen the AMNH mount, so this new mount isn’t really that exciting(although it’s heck of a lot closer). The difference with this mount is that the main hall of FMNH is really big. So, Patagotitan can finally stretch out in all its glory. In the render above, it makes the Akeley elephant duo nearby look really small. That’s one of the best things, I think, about this mount. It provides a sense of scale as to how big dinosaurs were. Now, there’s also other things coming. There will be a set of hanging gardens growing hydroponically(that is, growing in a solution which will provide water to the plants by itself). The largest garden will be 35 feet wide, and be constructed out of 3-D printed plastic. Now, next to the Patagotitan, we can see a freakin’ big pterosaur.
There are going to be two lifesize Quetzalcoatlus models. One will be in a quadruped standing posture, on the ground, and the other will be flying, apparently in the place where a Pteranodon sculpture used to be. There will also be two other new Pteranodon sculpts, which look suspiciously like Geosternbergia. There is also going to be a group of nine Rhamphorhynchus flying about, apparently in formation. Anyway, uh, that pretty much sums up all the FMNH changes coming up.