Thursday, June 18, 2015

Museum Visits: Royal Tyrrell Museum Part 1

With my recent trip to Canada, I've had the opportunity to visit one of the most well-respected and paleontologically-important museums in the world: the Royal Tyrrell Museum. The museum, founded in 1985, was named in honor of Joseph B. Tyrrell, a Canadian geologist who would discover the fossilized remains of Albertosaurus sarcophagus in the Red Deer River Valley in 1884, which, would be the first dinosaur fossil found in that area. Since then, the museum houses one of the finest collections of fossils in the world.

   The front entrance of the museum is guarded by a well-crafted Albertosaurus statue. With excellent detail put into it, the statue is an indicator of the quality exhibits the museum boasts.

Inside, you're greeted by the first exhibit, Cretaceous Alberta. Extremely realistic statues showcase a family of Albertosaurus crossing a mud bank. Pictured above is a massive female Albertosaurus alongside her infant. With the discovery of a bone bed containing at least 22 different Albertosaurus specimens, it's been long speculated that Albertosaurus, as well as other tyrannosaurs, lived in packs. The idea of a gang-life is well-represented here.

A sub-adult Albertosaurus. Living in packs does make it much easier to bring down that duckbill dinosaur, or that pesky Eotriceratops.

Following the Cretaceous Alberta exhibit is Fossils in Focus. Here, the museum displays some of their most impressive specimens, like this extremely well-preserved mosasaur.

Very surprisingly, they even had the skull of Regaliceratops on display! Considering that the dinosaur hadn't even been discovered less than two weeks ago at the time of my visit, it was an exciting moment to be able to see the specimen up close.

Having trouble figuring out what this is? Pictured is a remarkably amazing specimen of a hadrosaur. Older than other hadrosaur fossils found in the area, there is a possibility that this could be a new species!

The recently discovered Pachyrhinosaurus perotorum, named and described in 2013.

Don't let this familiar-looking face fool you. This is Eotriceratops, a close relative of its more famous cousin, Triceratops.

Gorgosaurus, another dinosaur with a more famous relative, Tyrannosaurus rex. It's been debated on whether or not Gorgosaurus and Albertosaurus are the same genus, with most paleontologists agreeing there's enough difference to classify them as different.

The "Black Beauty" Tyrannosaurus specimen, so named because of its unique color gained from fossilization. 

The third exhibit happens to be my favorite - no surprise, considering theropods are my favorite suborder of dinosaurs. Titled Lords of the Land, the star is no doubt the massive Tyrannosaurus rex mount, gaping jaws open, ready to swallow unsuspecting prey. Viewing mounted skeletons, one can appreciate the sheer terror the animal must have instilled 65 million years ago. Talking to museum staff, I learned that a cast of this particular skeleton was used for "Rexy," the admittedly adorable T. rex seen in the 2006 film Night at the Museum and its following sequels.

Gorgosaurus and Ornithomimus specimens, both in the classic "dino death pose," respectively. The Gorgosaurus had died as a juvenile, not uncommon of dinosaurs.

Ornithomimus mounts. With no weapons at their disposal, these guys had to rely on their speed to escape the hungry jaws of a T. rex.

Say the word "raptor," and everyone knows exactly what you're talking about. Say the correct term, "Dromaeosaur," and you'll most likely cook up a collection of confused faces, unless you'd happen to be talking to a person like me. The "dromaeosaurs" of LOTL include Saurornitholestes and Dromaeosaurus, (respectively).

The actual Black Beauty skull is on display as well. I find it stunning how well-preserved some fossils can get, and how well they hold up after millions of years.

And that concludes part 1 of the Royal Tyrrell Museum! In Part 2, we'll take a trip all the back to the Burgess Shale, 505 million years ago in the Paleozoic era. In the words of John Arnold, 

"Hold on to your butts!"

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