Game Day: Moving a 6-ton fossil

Last week a colleague commented in her post on this blog that she’s ridiculously excited about the debut of Leonardo. The entire Houston Museum of Natural Science team echoes her sentiments.

It’s been a challenging couple of weeks since Ike’s wrath came upon our city. The museum was closed to the public for about five days due to the storm’s aftermath.  We were left without power; therefore, the opening date of Dinosaur Mummy CSI: Cretaceous Science Investigation was delayed until Sept. 26 (originally scheduled to open Sept.19).

Now we’re up and running and it’s only 23 hrs. and about 10 minutes until visitors are able to see Leonardo on display. It took a lot to get him here—a special palette; a very heavy fork lift; an air cushioned tractor trailer; a crane; along with our very own dynamic paleontology staff and outstanding support from supreme moving specialists. As Dr. Bakker says, “Moving a fossil is like moving a piece of art.”

In this video, we thought we would give you a rare peek of what David Temple calls “Game Day,”— moving Leonardo, a 77 million-year-old adult duckbilled dinosaur, from our off-site facility to the museum.

Check out the other videos in this series:
The mummified dinosaur Leonardo: too good to be true?
Mapping a dinosaur with Dr. Robert Bakker.
First in a paleontologist’s toolkit: glue.
Or, check out our channel on YouTube for even more video.

Glue on, glue off – putting a dinosaur back together again

The museum has been open again for a few days now after Ike wiped us all out for a while. And – we’re back at work on the world premiere exhibit Dinosaur Mummy CSI: Cretaceous Science Investigation. Having gotten to know Leonardo so well over the past few months, I’m ridiculously excited about his debut on Sept. 26 - I can’t wait to see what all of you think. The exhibit is being built as I write this, and from even a preliminary walk through, I think you’re truly going to be blown away by this extraordinary fossil. 

Leonardo is so well preserved that you can literally see what he looked like alive – right down to the texture of his skin. As written in the June 2005 Newsweek article that reported the find, “it evokes, far better than any mounted skeleton, a real animal that lived and died.”

Not only can you see what he looked like – you’ll also see inside. Leonardo has preserved, internal organs and the exhibit presents the results of high tech scanning of the fossil.

Our paleontology team is also working on the fossilized remains of another hadrosaur, named Peanut, that was found on the same ranch as Leonardo – and you’ll be able to see their progress as they continue to work on this fossil in the exhibit. (You may recognize Peanut from our earlier video, Mapping A Dinosaur with Dr. Bob Bakker.)

As you might expect from a fossil specimen that has been subjected to massive geologic forces over millions of years, there is some repair work to be done before it can be displayed. In the video below, associate curator of paleontology, David Temple, discusses one of a paleontologist’s most frequently-used tools: glue.

PS – We posted this video on YouTube before the storm – and one of our favorite bloggers gave us a bit of a hard time about the subject matter. I laughed when I read it (touché, sir!) but it also made me wonder – what do you think? The video was created from a bunch of footage shot in one day as our paleo department was initially working on the Peanut fossil, and we thought it was an interesting look into one of the tools paleontologists use - but is it interesting to you? And what other kinds of things would you like a behind-the-scenes look into? Leave a comment to let us know!
Check out the other videos in this series:
The mummified dinosaur Leonardo: too good to be true?
Mapping a dinosaur with Dr. Robert Bakker.
Or, check out our channel on YouTube for even more video.

VIDEO: The mummified dinosaur Leonardo – too good to be true?

“Unbelieveable!”

“Too good to be true…”

“A dinosaur with its last meal meal still preserved inside its stomach…..no one could hope for that….”
Those were some of the skeptical comments heard by Dr. Robert Bakker, Curator at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, from distinguished colleagues in the dino-science word.

“I was unconvinced too….until I came up to Malta, Montana myself,” says Bakker.

“One glance showed that all us PhD’s were wrong. Leonardo the Dinosaur MummyDOES have his gut contents superbly – beautifully – fossilized. At last, we know what the single most important family of dino-species ate.”

Over the past four years, a talented crew of hi-tech, x-ray specialists have scanned and probed and computer-manipulated Leonardo, inventing new techniques. “Northing’s the same anymore…” Bakker mused, “from now on…all us dino-hunters will search for bones on the outside AND the secrets on the inside.”

Now, Leonardo has made his way down to Houston, for a very special exhibit, Dinosaur Mummy CSI: Cretaceous Science Investigation. In this second video in our ongoing series (check out the first video in the series here), Dr. Bakker explains the inner workings of Leonardo’s species from The Great Plains Dinosaur Museum in Malta, Montana.

VIDEO: Mapping a dinosaur with Dr. Bob Bakker

As you can see from our newly-installed widget (see: right), we’re already excitedly counting down to the opening of Dinosaur Mummy CSI: Cretaceous Science Investigation, a world premiere exhibition HMNS is developing to showcase Leonardo, one of the most spectacular dinosaur mummies ever found – and the only herbivore discovered with preserved stomach contents.

Oh, yeah – it’s also covered over 90 percent of its body with skin impressions. Until someone develops a time machine, looking at Leonardo is the closest you can get to seeing a living dinosaur.

Until it opens Sept. 19, we’ll be bringing you a series of behind-the-scenes videos of our paleontology department preparing for the exhibit – traveling to Montana, where Leonardo was discovered, working to prepare the fossils of another hadrosaur named Peanut for display and much more. What do you want to see? Let us know and we’ll do our best to get it on film.

In our first video, Dr. Bakker, David Temple and several of our paleontology volunteers create a map of Peanut that will help them study the specimen as it was discovered – even after the fossils have all been removed and mounted.


You can also download the audio-only version to listen on your mP3 player by right-clicking here. UPDATE: If you can’t see the video above, you can now check it out on YouTube.
UPDATE: Check out the second video in the series – Dr. Bakker explains why Leonardo is such an extraordinary find.