Thursday, March 27, 2008

Mummified dinosaur comes to HMNS

We're excited to announce that Leonardo, the famous mummified dinosaur from Malta, Montana, is coming to the Houston Museum of Natural Science this September for its world premiere display.

The fossil block, weighing 6.5 tons, reveals secrets that would not be evident from bones alone. For example, note the pouch under the throat – it may be a crop, to store food – a feature that also exists in modern birds. Photo by Grant Delin.

Leonoardo is one of only a very few big dinosaurs with preserved skin - and it covers 90% of his body. What makes him truly extraordinary is that his stomach contents - his last meal - are preserved. Until his discovery, scientists could only theorize what plant-eating dinosaurs ate. Now we know.

You can see video of this astounding fossil here. The link also includes photos of skin texture, illustrations of Leonardo in life, and more information about the exhibit and fossil.

In this Cretaceous scene, Leonardo calls to his mother, left. The foliage in this image – conifers in the background, ferns in the foreground – represents the types of plants found in Leonardo’s stomach. In the background, a tyrannosaur lunges at another Brachylophosaurus. Mural by Julius Csotonyi.

Dr. Bakker has been on the team that has been analyzing the fossil since 2002. According to him:

"Meeting Leonardo is a very moving, intimate experience. You will see every wrinkle and scale popping in the light, and then discover the internal organs of a creature that’s been dead for millions of years. You will leave convinced that these animals were very much alive.”

Leonardo is a young Brachylophosaurus, a two-legged, plant-eating duckbilled dinosaur, and is the first juvenile of this species ever discovered. He was approximately three or four years old when he died and would have been 20 feet long, weighing about 2,000 pounds. He was discovered on July 27, 2000 during the Judith River Foundation’s expedition in Malta.

The exhibit will also include an Ichthyosaur mummy with internal organs and four babies preserved inside and and the only mummified Triceratops skin ever found, which will also be on display for the first time.

The AP posted a short story on the exhibit, and the Great Falls Tribune did a wonderful feature this morning as well. There should be an article in the Houston Chronicle coming up soon. We'll post the link when it's live.