During a recent jaunt to San Francisco, Jennie and I visited the California Academy of Sciences, nestled in Golden Gate Park.
The entry is dominated by a cast of a mid-size Tyrannosaurus rex, which unfortunately isn't much more than a decoration. The provenance of the fossil casts isn't given. In my limited expertise I'd guess this is a teenage individual.
As for Mesozoic dinosaurs... that's it. Nice, but once you've spent quality time with Sue at the Field Museum or Stan and Bucky at the Children's Museum of Indianapolis, not a huge draw. The CAS is a conglomeration of institutions, and paleontology is not one of its primary areas of focus. It seems that the inclusion of T. rex is a matter of protocol - you can't have a science museum without a dinosaur, right? (If you're in the Bay area, your other option is the University of California Museum of Paleontology in Berkeley, which does have a few fossils on display, though it is primarily dedicated to research and does not focus on being a destination for the public.)
The Academy of Sciences holds one other dinosaur mount, in the form of the recently extinct avian theropod Aepyornis maximus, the famed "elephant bird" of Madagascar.
A. maximus is mounted within the Academy's impressive evolution exhibit, which focuses on islands as venues for evolution. Therefore, the rationale for its inclusion is as an example of the island rule, and there really isn't anything specific to the dinosaur-bird transition here. I can understand why: this is clearly meant to give the lay audience a good, graspable, visual evolutionary concept - how the isolation of islands makes them perfect places to study macroevolution. I'd love to see an entire hall devoted to the evidence for the theropod - bird transition, but that's not the point of the exhibit at the CAS, and it's stronger for its clear narrative.
The highlight of our visit was the enormous terrarium of the Rainforests of the World exhibit, which had its fair share of extant theropods. They provide a great opportunity for photographers, as they aren't too bashful.
Blue-necked Tanager. Photo by me.
Saffron Finch. Photo by me.
Red-Legged Honeycreeper. Photo by me.
Two beautiful Blue-and-Gold Macaws, Ara ararauna, also live there, but I was one of the few people who took the Academy's "no photography" signs to heart (you can see a photo or two at the Academy's rain forest blog). Leaving the rainforest but keepking with the theme of extant theropods, the most inconspicuous yet utterly fascinating specimen I saw had to be this mounted Barn Owl wing.
The wing was set just inside one of those big windows through which visitors can watch Real Live Scientists do Real Live Science (I'd love to see a giant vacuum valve water bottle in one of these). Sitting on a little table, the Barn Owl wing didn't attract much attention. It certainly wasn't on any brochure or promotional item I saw before the visit. But that's one of the joys of visiting a museum: tucked between the blockbuster attractions that attract the crowds, the attentive visitor can find unexpected windows into entire worlds.