5 Reasons Why Our New Dinosaur Is Amazing!

othnielosaurus1

Unlike the pieces on display here, HMNS is not a preserved relic. This museum is a living organism, constantly changing and evolving. Our exhibits are by no means all-encompassing, but we strive to always keep what we have on the cutting edge of science and museum design. As part of that effort, we have recently added a new skeleton of Othielosaurus to our Morian Hall of Paleontology. But this Othnielosaurus isn’t just a new mount, it has features that are both new to science and museum design! Here are five reasons why our new Othnielosaurus is worth a closer look:

  1. Generally when people think of dinosaurs, most envision large sauropods. But I bet most of you readers out there have probably never heard of the Othnielosaurus, which represents the whole mysterious family of Ornithopods. This smallish dinosaur was just a little bigger than a dog and lived in a world of giants like the Apatosaurus or Diplodocus, whose feet this little guy may have scampered under while foraging for food. 
  2. This is the first Othnielosaurus found with a well preserved skull. In fact, the skull is so well preserved that it is currently being studied by paleontologists to shed light on the lifestyle of this Cretaceous creature. Right now the big question is whether this animal was strictly an herbivore or if it was an omnivore eating whatever it could find.

    For now, the skeleton displayed in our hall has a 3D printed version of its skull, but the original will be reunited with the body after the research is complete.

  3. This is the first ever dinosaur mounted using magnets! Notice in the photos below how the bones are held in place by chunky steel armatures and supported by heavy beams. Although hidden as skillfully as possible, these supports are readily apparent. Right now, this is the only way to display the fossils in three dimensions, without drilling into them and altering their scientific value. fossil-mounts1fossil-mounts2But our new Othnielosuarus is blazing the trail to a better method of display. Magnets have been carefully glued to the bones and skillfully set on a metal armature. Although a steel “skeleton” is still present, there is no metal wrapped around the bone. And besides the better visual quality provided by this method, the new system also allows a much more dynamic posture to be obtained with the mount.
  4. Beyond the rarity of the specimen and the uniqueness of the mount, there are mysterious details to the skeleton that will keeps paleo-fans intrigued. Take a look at these sections of the tail and foot:othnielosaurus4othnielosaurus2Some of the bones have been crushed! It’s not for sure yet if this was caused during the skeleton’s oppressive stay under the earth or if these are injuries occurred during life, but there is a chance that these may represent bones that have healed after being broken. If these were injuries, you can tell that they healed because the bones have fused together, this often happens during the healing process when an injured bone tries to repair itself by producing more bone. 
  5. Take another look at those pictures of the tail and foot. Notice anything besides the crushed bones? Some of the bones are pyritized! What is pyritization? That’s when pyrite (aka “fool’s gold”) forms on a fossil. Look again and you may notice a slight golden luster to some areas of the fossils.

 

Win a 3D printed Dinosaur Skull! If you can identify it…

Alasaurus skulls

These 3D printed skulls were made here at HMNS, in preparation for a larger project we are planning for one of our rare specimens, which will eventually be placed in our Hall of Paleontology. The 3D prints that we will create when everything is up and running will be used to further our knowledge of Permian life from what is present day West Texas.

But until then… Let’s have some fun! The first person who can comment the correct identity of what dinosaur these skulls belong to will win their very own 3D printed copy and 4 tickets to see our Hall of Paleontology!

The winning entry will be contacted on Monday, September 5.

Archie the Wandering T. rex Goes on a Road Trip

Archie’s blog written with the help of Victoria Smith, HMNS Assistant to the President

Hi! It’s me, Archie the Wandering T. rex! After seeing the National Parks Adventure 3D giant screen movie and spending time at National Parks Photography Project exhibit, I got inspired to go on my own adventure. Fortunately, I was able to hitch a ride and head out on the highway, looking for adventure, or whatever comes my way.

I got my kicks on Route 66

I got my kicks on Route 66

The epic road trip went across 3 states and 8 national parks. I was excited, but it took 2 days just to get out of Texas!!! We finally made it to New Mexico and our first National Park–El Malpais National Monument. Although the name means “bad place”, it was quite beautiful there. A lot of these formations started in the Cretaceous period, so I was amazed to see what happened in the last 65 million years!

I am the kind of dinosaur who like to make the most of my travels, so when I heard about the Junior Park Ranger program, I said, “Sign me up”!

I think I look pretty good in uniform, don’t you?

I think I look pretty good in uniform, don’t you?

Speaking of catching up on the past million years, I had an unexpected family reunion at the Rainbow Forrest Museum in Petrified Forest National Park. I know what you’re thinking: “Archie, the Petrified Forest features reptiles from the Triassic Period, and T. rexes weren’t around till the Cretaceous!” Well, my mother raised me to respect my elders, and if these ancestors are a few million years older than me, I’m still going to stop by and say hi when I’m in town.

Why yes, I did feel at home in the Painted Desert!

Why yes, I did feel at home in the Painted Desert!

Cousins!

Cousins!

The next day was the big day—the Grand Day, if you will. I got to raft on the Colorado River, and they even let me pilot the boat for a little bit. Since the river runs through the arid climate of Arizona, early Native American tribes settled in the area. We disembarked and viewed the petroglyphs on the canyon walls! The Grand Canyon itself was so amazing, I forgot to take pictures. All I can say is that everyone who has the opportunity should go visit! It was a reminder of what a wonderful world we do live in!

Cool art, hot rocks!

Cool art, hot rocks!

After that, the trip headed south—literally! Even though Montezuma’s Castle wasn’t built for royalty, it was impressive to see the cliff dwellings from hundreds of years ago. (But they want to tell a dinosaur about ancient? Please!) Saguaro National Park was also a spectacular site, thick with cactus that can even poke a T. rex. I didn’t realize how tall they got—they can be as tall as a T. rex is long! That’s 40 feet. I never thought I’d be intimidated by a cactus!

Since dinosaurs prefer warm environments, I’ve never really tried winter sports. Imagine my delight sledding on the sand dunes at White Sands National Park! On this trip, I also found out that you can get a National parks passport and get stamps at every stop. I have so many now!

Gotta catch ‘em all!

Gotta catch ‘em all!

When we went back through Texas I thought we were heading home, but it turns out El Paso is closer to San Diego, California than it is to Houston, Texas. No wonder it took two days to leave the state! The Guadalupe Mountains is the highest peak in Texas, and it contains Permian reef. Of course I felt so at home out there. This is a dinosaur dream trip!

We went from the highest peak in Texas to the low parts of New Mexico, and descended into the caves of Carlsbad Caverns. In the evening, I got to see some of the cave residents, when all the bats came flying out at dusk! There are over 400,000 Mexican free-tail bats living in the cave, and they are all hungry for mosquitos. I love bats!

T. rex trying to spelunk

T. rex trying to spelunk

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. After driving around for 3,000 miles, it was sure good to be back at HMNS . . . until I get inspired by the next exhibit. The Bill of Rights is coming soon! Does anyone want to do some research in D.C.? Road trip!!!

Archie Spends ‘A Day in the Life’ of a Museum Volunteer

By Jennifer Gerbode, HMNS Volunteer Coordinator

Hi everyone, it’s Archie the Wandering T. rex! I recently had some downtime in-between travels, so I decided to go on a small adventure of my own right here at home. The museum is always a busy and popular place! Between all the tours, the cool members events, and special exhibits, we need a lot of hands to make sure everything goes smoothly. Thankfully, we have a great group of people that do just that!

HMNS volunteers give their time to the museum and share their love of science and learning with the public. Anyone can be a volunteer, provided you are at least 18 years old and can commit to 40 volunteer hours per year. The volunteers tell me this is really easy to do; a couple hours every other week will do it.

Vol Office Door

Since it is summer, the Volunteer Office might seem quiet, but that doesn’t mean volunteers aren’t busy! Year-round, volunteers give guided tours to visitors of all ages in the permanent and special exhibit halls—and even take museum-related presentations out into the community via the Docents-to-Go program. During the school year, they also help with the HISD 4th grade program and the Early Investigations program geared for Kindergarten – 3rd grade.

Before Tour of HoA

I got to hear a few quick talking points about Hall of Americas before a tour began.

Once any morning tours and activities are over, it’s time for a quick lunch break! I sat down with some of the volunteers as they poured over exhibit halls notes and shared anecdotes about their time on the floor (Don’t worry! Some of these stories will be shared in a future blog, so stay tuned!)

After lunch, I decided to tag along as one of the volunteers grabbed a special key and went to open up a touch cart. As the name implies, touch carts are filled with touchable items that pertain to the exhibit where the cart is located. Most of the exhibits have at least one touch cart, while a few popular halls have more —The Morian Hall of Paleontology has six! To work a touch cart, volunteers don’t have to be an expert on the entire hall; they only need to know a few key facts about one or two intriguing items in the cart.

We ended up talking about mummification in the Hall of Ancient Egypt at a cart the volunteers lovingly call “Himself.” They call it Himself because, according to Royal Decree, the King was always referred to as ‘Himself.’ Since the cart is in the shape of an anthropoid (or human-shaped) coffin with both hands crossed in front (the sign of a king), the name is most appropriate.

Fun at Himself

Uh… shabtis? A little help?

After we spent some time at the “Himself” touch cart, my volunteer friend suggested I check out one of the demonstration stations scattered through the exhibits. These volunteer-run stations show science in action and allow for a little more hands-on approach. For mad scientists, the Chemistry demo area is the perfect place to talk about reactions (while playing with fire). For those with a passion for sparkly gems and their creation, the Rock Star gem polishing station is situated right inside Fabergé: From a Snowflake to an Iceberg. What better place to demonstrate what a facet or a cabochon is?

Rock Star Station

While it’s not an everyday event, volunteers also help prepare and run the craft tables at the many member events throughout the year. I was able to hang out with Ben, a frequent volunteer at craft events, as we showed off a few crafts being prepared from upcoming and past special events.

Archie and Ben

Before I knew it, I had spent the whole day with the volunteers! Not all volunteers spend a full day at the museum—and no one participates in, or knows, everything. Volunteers get to pick and choose what to do based on their schedule and interests. The one thing that all volunteers share though is a passion for learning, and a desire to share knowledge with others.

Interested in becoming a volunteer at HMNS? Check out the Volunteer page on the HMNS website for more information opportunities at HMNS’ three locations, requirements, and application instructions. Interviews will open for new applicants beginning July 18, with the first school-year orientations scheduled for late August.

Until my next exotic adventure… see you in the halls!

Shadow Archie