Archive for December, 2011


The Carnegie’s swimming crocs weren’t the only dramatic mount on display. This huge proboscidian is charging across the room (well trying gamely, despite being dead and having no musculature) in a superb pose and again, something that was definitely new to me. A cracking figure to dominate a room.

C is for Collect

This photo comes from the Carnegie’s super ‘family’ gallery, aimed at the providing interest and education for ages 3 and up. This was something unique that I have never seen before and was really well done – a simple A-Z of the museum itself and of museums in general. It included things like how to reconstruct a fossil animal (this in fact), an F for fossils, and here, C for collect. In addition to this huge cabinet of entomological specimens there was a massive pile of well, stuff, and a series of shopping baskets. Kids were encouraged to grab a basket and start their own collection from the huge assortment of things available meaning they could get all the toy dinosaurs, or all the blue items, or all the wooden ones etc. A wonderfully simple idea that would be fun, but clearly teach them about identifying things, that items can have multiple properties (you could get a wooden, blue, dinosaur) and that there are reasons a museum would want to collect them. Simple, fun, effective. Great stuff.

Taxidermic magnificence

Although the vast majority of my work involves looking at bones, I’m actually quite partial to a good piece of taxidermy. And this is nothing like a good piece, it’s actually magnificent. I’ve genuinely never seen anything quite like it and it is both beautiful and superbly executed. Two huge animals, rendered as if shooting through the water, held high off the ground (and with no massive support structures, there must be a wonderfully concealed steel support running through that branch) in a pose that’s both dramatic and realistic. This is just great, and the fact that you an walk all the way around i only makes it better.

The Carnegie had some truly superb taxidermy on show, and like this piece, not just in the sense of technical accomplishment, but the layouts and dioramas. One other memorable effort was of two adjoining displays of mountain sheep and goats. Mounted outside and between the two was a cougar, climbing around the rocks as if moving from one diorama to the next, and helping break down the barriers by being outside the glass and on the same side as the visitors – clever, inventive, worked. Brilliant.

PPC Update

So having launched this year’s Palaeo Project Challenge a bit late, we are at least starting to get in a few commitments. It’s not too late to sign up, as demonstrated by this effort from tow of the SV-POW! boys, so do sign up. You’d be surprised what you can do in 3 weeks!

So far we have:

Me: submitting corrections to a manuscript.

Eric Morschhauser: finishing a paper for submission.

Robert Sloan: finishing a draft piece of art.

Mike Taylor & Mad Wedel: each have an MS to finish and are racing each other as well as the PPC. That’s the kind of competition we like to see!

Henirich Mallison: finishing a manuscript for submission.

Let’s get those projects flowing!



Carnegie mural pterosaurs

As I noted yesterday, I kept the few pterosaurs apart from the gallery. This was mostly because I simply couldn’t get very good photos of them. High up on the walls it made photography difficult (and while yes, there are balconies, I was then shooting across the entire hallway). The first two are from the Late Jurassic layout and it’s not entirely clear what they are supposed to be. That’s no criticism of the artists, the Morrison is rather lacking in pterosaur material and to be honest many of the basal pterosaur look really quite similar, though if pushed I’d probably say the upper ones were rhamphorhynchines and the lower scaphoganthines. At the bottom though is something rather more obvious, it’s Quetzalcoatlus and of course this goes alongside the mounted cast that hangs from the ceiling.

While obviously there’s the old running joke about pterosaur just being pictured alongside sauropods for scale, it’s understandable here where the dinosaurs really are the star of the show and for the Morrison especially (and this is essentially a Morrison exhibit) there’s not much and nothing in the Carnegie collections at all, so their use as ‘background’ is fair enough. Well worth showing though!

Carnegie dinosaur murals

Those who have been reading the Musings at any point in the last few weeks cannot have missed the various murals in the background of photos of the Carnegie exhibits. Indeed, some of it should be very familiar as it was pained by palaeoart team Bob & Tess and bit featured in my interview with them on here.
Till now I’ve been avoiding showing any of the murals properly as I wanted to do something like this and put them all together as one big series. (Actually, that’s not quite true, I took the pterosaurs out and are saving them to do separately tomorrow). So here they all are, pterosaurs aside, I think I got a photo of every single dinosaur (and one aeteosaur) and put them all here, and of course pretty much every one of those is actually represented by a mounted skeleton in the galleries, so it really is all delightfully linked together. Enjoy.

Models on show

Fossils, casts and murals abound in the main exhibition hall of the Carnegie, but there is also a small number of life-sized reconstructed models of a number of taxa (such as this wonderfully bristly Psittacosaurus above), especially around the small ‘Jehol’ section.Here we can see a fully feathered Caudipteryx, a deinonychosaur (I think it’s supposed to be Sinornithosaurus, but can’t remember) as well as a lovely swimming choristodere.
I really do like these kinds of thing and they seem to be rarely used in museums (I can sympathise, they can’t be cheap) and this is a great little set, that in particular complements the often 2-D nature of the Jehol preservation. Nicely done.

Western Interior Seaway

Well we’ve been through a whole load of pterosaurs and dinosaurs over the last few weeks, but now it’s an opportunity to cover some of the other bits of the Carnegie. Starting with this superb corner dedicated to the Cretaceous Western Interior Seaway. There’s a mixture of mounts and murals and cases, and what a selection. I’m not normally too moved by the marine side of the Mesozoic but this was superb. Things I’d not seen before (my first icthyorniform bird) or only ever seen as casts (my first Archelon) or just impressive (the massive and incredibly mounted 3D fish skeletons). Great stuff.

A little more on teeth

Since it generated so many comments and discussion about the origins and use of the phrases, I went googling phrases associated with Tyrannosaurs teeth.

Here’s the search terms and the number of hits (to the nearest thousand).

Tyrannosaurus teeth bananas – 792 000

Tyrannosaurus teeth steak knives – 13 000

Tyrannosaurs teeth railroad spikes – 98 000

Tyrannosaurus teeth bananas steak knives – 8000

Tyrannosaurus teeth bananas railroad spikes – 3.2 million (which must be wrong)

Tyrannosaurus teeth steak knives railroad spikes – 8000

Tyrannosaurus teeth bananas steak knives railroad spikes – 6000

Having explored a bit some of these are probably high – people can discuss Tyrannosaurus relative to other theropod teeth and call those steak-knife like especially, so that could be misleading. However, what is clear is that these are all being used with great regularity. My exploring also revealed a profound lack of qualifiers (e.g. ‘big’, ‘crown’, ‘shaped’, ‘similar to’ etc.) and they generally seemed to be flat comparisons of the “teeth like bananas” kind. This included all manner of less-than-stellar sources like AiG and Yahoo answers, but all the way through to Wikipedia, various museum and university websites and more. In short, these really seem to be pretty ubiquitous on the web.

Pachycephalosaur heads

And so ends Carnegie marginocephalic week with the last of their pachycephalosaur material. For once though, this is something I really haven’t had before. While long ago I did feature a cast of a Pachycepahlosaurus skull (that looks suspsiciously identical to the various mounted skeletons I’ve show) here at least is something a bit different. First off, there’s a skull of Stegoceras (above, and the small one below) which even to my inexpert eye is clearly rather different to that of Pachy. Moreover, the ‘shelf’ at the back of the head – the key character that unites the pachycephalosaurs with the ceratopsians, is clearly visible and more dramatic that the usual fine bosses and spines that are generally available.

The second piece is also a Pachycepahlosaurus skull-cap though in rather less good condition, though I’m not sure if the lack of spikes and so on at the back of the head is due to wear / damage, or a lack of development. I suspect the former, since this was rather larger than the cast on display.


Ah the boneheaded dinosaurs. I’ve only ever covered these a couple of times as there are few mounts of them in museums and (hugely convoluted and problematic taxonomy aside) there’s not that much to talk about. Did they or didn’t they fight and in which manner has been done to death but there’s really not that much beyond this – after all their fossil record is actually pretty poor aside from the thick skull-caps and here are few specimens which border on even partially complete. SO you’ll just have to settle this time around for yet another mount from the Carnegie.

Ceratopsian crests II

A couple of months back I posted this on the display of ceratopsian skulls in Tokyo and lamented that they looked great, but were several meters off the ground and thus their position was rather sub-optimal. What’s especially nice with the Carengie’s version is not only that these were nice and accessible, but are all different species to those in Tokyo so between the two, it’s quite a collection. Here then are are Carnegie heads:





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