Tyrannosaur Teaser

4 09 2007

I know pickings have been a bit slim here over the past few days; I’ve been in a bit of an intellectual funk (especially yesterday) and have been wrapped up with the beginning of the semester. Still, I am still writing, and I’ve got something good cooking that I think many of my readers will enjoy quite a bit. Here’s the preliminary introductoray paragraph from a forthcoming monster post about one of my most favorite Cretaceous carnivores;

Tyrannosaurus AMNH

Never has there been a more frightening visage to grace the hallowed halls of the 4th floor of the American Museum of Natural History than that of Tyrannosaurus rex. I could not help but be awed and terrified by the post mortem articulation of bones of the what seemed to be the apex of dinosaur evolution during my first visit to the great fossil gallery. It didn’t matter that the monster was standing upright, dragging its tail along the ground and dangling its dainty arms feebly in the air, the long-dead dinosaur seemed as alert and ferocious as it must have been in life, as if it was rearing up to its full height in search of small, warm-blooded, 10-year-old Homo sapiens for a snack. Mouth agape, serrated fangs glistening in the sunlight filtering in through the dusty windows, it was hard to turn away from the remains of the last great predator of the Mesozoic, partially out of awe, partially out of an overactive imagination that saw the bones removing themselves from their metal supports to start stomping down the walkway towards scores of hapless visitors. Staring at the magnificently grotesque form I realized that my parents had lied to me; monsters were real, even if the gulf of time kept me safe from their bone-crunching maws.

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2 responses

4 09 2007
Zach Miller

Ah, the AMNH tyrannosaur. I think it’s a shame that they kept the skeleton that way. It’s a reminder of the history of paleo, sure, but imagine what that gorgeous specimen would look like in a modern pose. That Struthiomimus is, I believe, now at Tyrrell, and if it’s not, then a cast certainly is, as I remember it fondly.

To me, T.rex’s fame and familiarity actually work against it. Tyrannosaurus rex is by no means the apex of theropod evolution, and I think that museums which idolize its skeleton are doing a diservice to the more niche or deserving dinosaurs that never get a chance at the limelight. A full-scale replica of Gigantoraptor, for instance, would surely be met with wonder. I have NEVER seen a skeletal mount of an advanced therizinosaur, but I’m positive that Therizinosaurus or Alxasaurus would boggle people’s minds.

Granted, I have not been to many paleo museums, but the ones I have been to seem to hover around the familiar dinosaurs. Tyrannosaurus, Apatasaurus, generic lambeosaur, Stegosaurus, Triceratops, and, thanks (or no thanks) to Jurassic Park, some kind of raptor dinosaur.

Where are the abelisaurs? The dicraeosaurs and rebbechiosaurs? The ceratopsians that are not named “Triceratops?” Give me the strange and unusual, not the same old, same old! I know I’m ranting, and I realize that no dinosaur is inherently stranger than any other (it’s all personal preference, I suppose), but I wish museums would take some risks and really make people step back and appreciate the sheer diversity of the Dinosauria. And more pterosaurs wouldn’t hurt, either!

4 09 2007
laelaps

I agree with you Zach; there are definitely more weird and wonderful dinosaurs out there than get credit. Still, this first passage was meant to express what I saw as a child (I’ll get to the changing image of the ever-popular “tyrant kind” as I go along). I don’t hold it to be the apex (evolution does not produce an apex or have goals), but that was the way the dinosaur was introduced to me. You’ll see when the whole thing is finished.

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