Posts Tagged 'museum'

The Horniman Museum aquarium

I spent yesterday catching up with my old friend and colleague Paolo Viscardi (known to fans of mystery biological objects as Zygoma). He’s a curator at the Horniman Museum, a small site in southeast London and one of those old style museums split between three major collections –  archaeological artefacts, musical instruments and natural history. While the latter part is well worth talking about and I have a number of posts lined up on various parts (including some very retro dinosaurs) there is also a small, but well stocked, aquarium attached. Some important breeding programs go on behind the scenes including work on various corals, seahorses and recently some cuttlefish too. It’s been a while since I’ve managed to cram a decent number of living species into these pages, so here, have some fish (and a lobster).

Oh, and a frog.



A last left-over AMNH pterosaur and again I’m most grateful to Steve Cohen for the photos. This is all there is of this little taxon (assuming you think it’s valid – Dave Unwin sank it into Dorygnathus, but Kevin Padian kept it separate in his more recent review of Dorygnathus). I don’t know where the original specimen is, but as it was from the UK I assume it’s here and that this is a cast, but if so it’s rather a good one.

The view here is dorsal, looking down on the skull (well, most of the skull) with the posterior part at the top of the picture and the snout pointing down as seen. As you can hopefully make out, this is essentially an incomplete skull which as I recall has no teeth in it. Just another incomplete pterosaur, but nicely preserved and in 3D which is always a bonus for such a basal animal.

Animals Inside Out

Friday night saw me being lucky enough to get into the superb new exhibit at the Natural History Museum. Featuring plastinated animals and anatomical dissections, this is an amazing looking inside both some well-known and unusual animals. Since I’m not really one for great anatomical details on the blog and the fact that there is a very good slide-show here online, I’ll stop here for any great analysis.

Suffice to say though, that if you are interested in anatomy or biology in general, then this really is a must. It does show things nor normally seen (even to those familiar with dissections and anatomical books and papers) and gives a greater appreciation and understanding of how things fit together. Even jaded experts seemed quite thrilled with some things like the ‘exploded’ elephant and the sectioned giraffe.

If there is a complaint it’s the almost complete lack of signs and explanation of things. I suspect too many people will look at things and say ‘cool’ but come away with very little increased knowledge and understanding of what they saw, even if they have got a much great appreciation and love of the beauty of nature.

Anyway, for those who can go, go. For those who can’t, well, at least there are some pictures.

Very late Eustreptospondylus update

It is now more than a year since I put up a post on the rather little-known British dinosaur Eustreptospondylus. A browse through some files today looking for something else turned up two more photos of the holotype remeains that I had intended to show and had clearly forgotten or overlooked. In the interest of getting them out there, here’s the pelvis and partial hindlimb  Ah, yeah, it’s not, it’s more Megalosaurus material – I’d stashed these in the wrong file. Thanks to the commenters for spotting the error.

From the grave to the cradle

This is the arm of the Dryosaurus skeleton I put up earlier in the week. You can see here quite clearly that the bones are held in ‘cradles’ that then are bolted onto the main support for the skeleton. This technique for mounting specimens has become popular recently (the remodeled dinosaur gallery in the Humboldt in Berlin uses the same methods) and it’s a welcome change from the old style. The bones used to be bolted directly to the frame meaning that they were often drilled through or had rods and bolts put through the bones themselves.

Obviously this is infinitely preferable to any form of damage or manipulation of the bones. It allows them to be put out on public exhibition, but it *also* allows them to be removed as single units as the cradles can be simply taken off the frame, and the whole thing doesn’t have to be taken apart to get to a single element. As a compromise, it’s relaly pretty good.

A look into the lab

Yep, more Carnegie. This is the ‘open’ part of their dinosaur lab, with preparators working behind glass in a way that visitors can see them and their work. These kinds of displays are becoming ever more common and it’s hard not to like them. It brings a really secretive part of the world of palaeontology out and into the open so people can see the painstaking work that goes into freeing bones from rock and restoring them to their prime (well, prime for something 100 million years old and crushed).

On the other hand though, I can imagine it’s a less than perfect working environment, especially on busy days. As long as the *whole* lab is not open to scrutiny (people need privacy and delicate work needs perfect concentration) I think it’s a great education tool.

Dryosaurus skull

In addition to the mounted skeleton shown yesterday, as usual the Carnegie provided a little extra something. In this case it’s a nearly complete skull of a young Dryosaurus (the label lies in the orbit and it’s facing to the left).

I must confess to knowing little about this ornithischian (also true of many ornithischians I admit) though it helps illustrate one small point. Not that long ago, it was thought that sometime in the Middle to Late Jurassic there was a landbridge from Africa to North America. This was invoked to explain the apparent incredible similarity between the Tendaguru and Morrison faunas. Both had Dryosaurus, and Allosaurus and Brachiosaurus, and both had stegosaurs and diplodocids.

However, better examination of the available material makes the Tendaguru brachiosaur not Brachiosaurus, the allosaur not Allosaurus and the small ornithopod is Dysolotosaurus and not Dryosaurus. In short, there’s no need to invoke a special land-bridge since the two faunas are not identical. Similar sure, with each having representatives of the same families, but that’s hardly surprising – look to the modern world and the two continents feature felids, canids, mustelids, bovids and others and such comparable faunas are quite normal.

Ceratosaurus and Dryosaurus

I’m not quite out of Canegie photos yet, so here are the mounted Ceratosaurus and Dryosaurus. My first of either and while it is cool to see a young Ceratosaurus (I simply didn’t know there were specimens of animals this size) I must confess I had hoped to see an adult Allosaurus-sized individual. Still these are both classic Morrison taxa and added still more to my ‘first time’ list of species that I got from this trip to the U.S.


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.

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.

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