Wednesday, September 12, 2012

What I Did on My Summer Vacation: Take the Left Turn at Albuquerque

I visited the New Mexico Museum of Natural History in June for a couple of days with my friend and colleague Mike Burns to look at [top secret specimen yet again, sorry!]. OH MAN was Albuquerque toasty in June. But we had a very fine time indeed eating southwest food and visiting the museum.
In part I liked the museum because it has such a large collection of Triassic vertebrates, which I don't really see too much of in my travels to look at Late Cretaceous dinosaurs. I hadn't really realized just how BIG Placerias was.
There was a wonderful big block of Ghost Ranch Coelophysis, which you could definitely spend a good amount of time poring over.

And I also enjoyed the various walls-o-Triassic-skulls, like these phytosaurs.
I know Stegosaurus is a staple of many dinosaur halls, but the subdued yet modern pose of this particular mount is really pleasing. Note also that the manus is correctly mounted!
The Jurassic gallery is dominated by this Seismosaurus and Saurophaganax pair, as well as a deliciously weird but detailed mural. Many of the original bones used to create these mounts are laid out on the bases of the mounts, and there are helpful skeletal diagrams to show what original material is known.
A temporary exhibit celebrating 100 years of discovery in New Mexico reveals a new exhibit case each month. One month featured a relatively recently named tyrannosaur called Bistahieversor.
The Cretaceous hall was pretty neat, with lots of living trees and other plants and a mural of the seaside enveloping the room. Two life reconstructions of marine vertebrates of the Cretaceous, a mosasaur and the swimming bird Hesperornis, were particularly cool. I really liked the grebe feet on the Hesperornis! I'm not sure if there's any evidence for it, and now I want to find out!


  1. There is indeed evidence for lobed feet in Hesperornis! It is based on the rotation of the toes, which resemble that of grebes and function in lobe-footed swimming. I haven't been able to trace this idea back to whatever publication originally discovered or proposed it, but it's certainly brought up in passing by many authors in later years.

  2. We now know that by the late Campanian, at least, some tyrannosaurs were becoming more robust like Tyrannosaurus e.g. Z. magnus and Bistahieversor