Prehistoric Animals


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Smithsonian Institute

The Smithsonian Institution was founded in 1846 by James Smithson. Today, the National Museum of Natural History includes some 50 million fossil specimens, preserved in 450 different collections. The collection of dinosaurs, which dates back to the early twentieth century with specimens collected by Charles Othniel Marsh, contains more than 1500 pieces. There are examples of Upper Jurassic dinosaurs: Allosaurus, Stegosaurus, Ceratosaurus and Diplodocus, from the Morrison Formation in Wyoming and various sites in Colorado. The collection also includes many skulls of Triceratops found by the famous dinosaur hunter John Bell Hatcher in Upper Cretaceous deposits at Lance Creek, Wyoming. Upper Cretaceous dinosaurs were collected under the direction of Charles Whitney Gilmore in New Mexico and Montana. Gilmore's earliest discoveries in the Two Medicines formation in northern Montana included the horned dinosaur Brachyceratops but also bone deposits of young hadrosaurids and many other types of vertebrates. Among other dinosaurs also found by Charles Whitney Gilmore are the unique titanosaur sauropod known from North America, the Alamosaurus of New Mexico, and a number of dinosaur specimens that have interesting bone pathological abnormalities. Gilmore was one of the most productive scientists of the twentieth century in this field. His reconstruction of an almost complete skeleton of the Apatosaurus, found by Earl Douglas in 1909, was instrumental in the formation of the Dinosaur National Monument in Utah. The Smithsonian Institution searched the sites of this area in the 1920s and 30s, uncovering numerous specimens of dinosaurs.

In the 1940s, the institution could boast of having the largest collection of dinosaurs. In a paper published in 1941 by the museum, Gilmore details the history and development of this exceptional ensemble. The institution's dinosaur collection includes more than 40 identified species. Many of them have acquired their names, such as the Dystrophaeus viaemalae, the first piece in the collection found by John Strong Newberry in 1859 and named by Edward Drinker Cope in 1877. Today, however, these fossils are believed to be Camarasaurus whose name is authoritative. Among the most important specimens of the museum are the skeletons of Alamosaurus Sanjuanensis, Stegosaurus stenops, Brachyceratops montanus, Edmontia rugosidens, Pachycephalosaurus wyomingensis, Camptosaurus brownie, Ceratosaurus nasicornis, Edmontosaurus annectens, Styracosaurus ovatus and Thescelosaurus neglectus. The National Museum's permanent exhibitions show several skeletons containing more than 50% real bone. Among the dinosaurs exhibited here are Albertosaurus, Allosaurus, Camarasaurus, Diplodocus, Ceratosaurus, Corythosaurus, Edmontosaurus, Stegosaurus and Triceratops. We also see the molding of the skeleton of a baby Maiasaura and that of a small South African dinosaur, the Heterodontosaurus. Other interesting pieces are exhibited, including the skull of a Centrosaurus and that of a Tyrannosaurus. Today, the Department of Paleobiology is an important research center for all aspects of paleontology - marine microfossils and molluscs, fossilized whales, evolution of plants and dinosaurs. For more information on the work of the researchers, the collections and the curricula that take place there, you can visit the institution's website.

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