Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Elizabeth Morse Genius Dinosaur Hall

Most of the Field Museum's dinosaurs and other mesozoic fossils are housed in the Elizabeth Morse Genius Dinosaur Hall. It takes up the middle third of the Evolving Planet exhibit, which leads visitors from the Precambrian beginning of life on Earth to the Cenozoic origin of our species.

The first dinosaur you meet after passing through the Field's impressive selection of Permian critters is Herrerasaurus, a beast so low on the dinosaur family tree that its status as a dinosaur has been doubted in the past.


The hall is roughly divided by the great clans of dinosaurs. First up, the armor-bearers, the clade known as the thyreophorans, get a little action, in the form of a Stegosaurus and an ankylosaur skull and tail club.


Team sauropod is represented by a composite mount of Apatosaurus as well as diminutive Rapetosaurus, a fairly recently discovered Malagasy titanosaur. There's also a case showing off a variety of sauropod skulls.

Rapetosaurus and Apatosaurus

Theropods aren't neglected, of course, with a section devoted to dromaeosaurs, including Deinonychus and Buitreraptor.

Deinonychus and Buitreraptor

I've mentioned before that the entrance hall of the Field used to have a mount of an Albertosaurus standing over a fallen Lambeosaurus. When it was found that parts of the skull had been remodeled in plaster, it existed in a taxonomical limbo, until 1999, when Thomas Carr reassigned it to Daspletosaurus.


Daspletosaurus and Lambeosaurus

Then it's back to the ornithischians, with a selection of ceratopsian material, including an Anchiceratops frill.



Partial Anchiceratops Skull

Besides the Lambeosaurus who so graciously provides Daspletosaurus with his supper, the ornithopods present are a Maiasaura calf and an impressive specimen of Parasaurolophus. One of the most popular features in the hall is the "musical" Parasaurolophus head, which lets visitors hear what one of the big honkers may have sounded like.

The Musical Parasaurolophus Head


Maiasaura Calf

As you can see behind the Parasaurolophus above, one of the coolest parts of the hall is that the murals of Charles R. Knight are still hanging on the walls. An informational plaque near the Daspletosaurus also gives Knight's background. It's a good tie to Field history, and I hope that people take the time to appreciate them.

Beyond the Genius Hall, you should also stop in at the newly renovated Grainger Hall of Gems, home to an unexpected treat from the Mesozoic: an opalized Plesiosaurus vertebra. The first step in its formation was when water enriched with silica filled a cavity left by the decayed bone. A cast of the bone was left behind when the water evaporated, leaving behind a silica gel which hardened into opal.

Opalized Plesiosaur Vertebra

The dinosaur action didn't end inside the museum, though. After we exited the building, we saw that a small theropod was waiting to say goodbye: a gull, perched on a stone pillar overlooking the marina. I was pretty surprised that he let me get as close as I did. I kept inching closer, thinking I'd scare him away, but he stood his ground, completely at ease, as happy to pose for the camera as his fossil cousins inside.


Feel free to check out more photos in this Flickr set.


  1. Wow--they've added a lot since I was there. The Rapetosaurus and Anchiceratops are new, and I think Buitreraptor is, too.

    I've gotta get back to that museum. It's my second favorite (of all the museums I've been to, which isn't many) after Tyrell.

  2. I'm so itching to get to the Tyrell. I'll tell you, I learned a lot about taking photos at a museum as I was tagging and sorting through these. When I do get to Drumheller, I'll be prepared!


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