Carnegie Museum unveils new marine specimens in the “Cretaceous Seaway”
March 4 – Once upon a time – say, about 90 million years ago – a young pliosaur swimming in the waters of western Manitoba in central Canada.
If you were also in the water, it would be hard to miss, despite its young age – it would be around 18 feet long, roughly the size of a large saltwater crocodile.
As an adult, it would be among the largest marine reptiles of the dinosaur era, reaching up to 40 feet in length and occupying a place near the top of the food chain during the Cretaceous Period.
Visitors to the Carnegie Museum of Natural History will be able to look up and see the plesiosaur along with four other new specimens in the museum’s Cretaceous Seaway, as part of its flagship exhibit, “Dinosaurs in their time.”
“Our new Cretaceous Seaway exhibits put visitors in the midst of a struggle to the death that unfolded in west-central North America 92 million years ago,” said Matt Lamanna , Daniel G. and Carole L. Kamin Co. Acting Director and Mary R. Dawson Associate Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology. “Collectively, our new beasts of the Seaway tell the story of the evolution and extinction of an ancient ocean over more than 30 million years. And they remind us that no species, not even humans, is safe from extinction.
Other specimens include the restored fossil skull of a Tylosaurus, a type of mosasaur that is also among the largest of its kind; a second, smaller juvenile plesiosaur; and an ancient fish.
The actual fossils that make up the pliosaur are on display at the Manitoba Museum in Canada.
All of the skeleton replicas were created by Triebold Paleontology in Colorado.
In the exhibit, the plesiosaur, Libonectes, is hunted by the pliosaur, and Lamanna said it is the only one of its kind, replica or otherwise, anywhere in the world.
“No one has ever found a baby Libonectes before, so in order to produce one, the Triebold Paleontology gang and I had to digitally modify a virtual 3D model of an adult skull, then digitally sculpt other bones using photos of skeletons of Libonectes and related plesiosaurs, ”Lamanna says. “Once all the computer work was done, the 3D models were then printed to produce the physical replica. The whole process really opened my eyes to the possibilities of 3D scanning, modeling and 3D printing in paleontology. “
The new specimens are made possible through support from the Elijah Straw Memorial Fund. According to Tom Straw, Elijah’s father, the Natural History Museum was a special place for Elijah, especially the skull of a prehistoric fish, Dunkleosteus terrelli.
This exhibit has since been dedicated to the memory of Elijah, and the Memorial Fund has helped finance various improvements in the Cretaceous Seaway region, with the support of Dr. Richard W. Moriarty.
The museum is opened using a timed ticketing system. For more information, see CarnegieMNH.org.
Patrick Varine is an editor at Tribune-Review. You can contact Patrick at 724-850-2862, [email protected] or via Twitter.