Well, it was supposed to be a working trip—no prehistoric shenanigans allowed. But it turns out the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences is practically right across the street from the state archives. I took it as a sign.
A most welcome sign, too, because the NCMNS has two dinosaur specimens I’d wanted to see in person for a long time. The first is “Willo,” a remarkable Thescelosaurus from South Dakota.
This guy (gal?) was all over the news back in 2000 due to a claim that the stony mass under the shoulder blade was actually a petrified heart. Other researchers have argued that it’s just a concretion. Either way, Willo is a really neat fossil.
The other dino I wanted to check out was the world’s largest and most complete Acrocanthosaurus, a massive Early Cretaceous meat-eater famous for the spines along its neck and back.
Note that some of the bones are missing. I think the museum is replacing the original fossils in the mount with replicas because of the preservation conditions in the exhibit space, so if you want to see the genuine article, you’d better do it sooner rather than later.
The original skull is in a case nearby, and it’s a beauty.
The acro shares its gallery with an Astrodon. Those wicked teeth have already ripped a chunk out of the sauropod’s hindquarters, and it looks like the acro is going to make another lunge.
The dinos alone were well worth the stroll over from the archives, but this ginormous ground sloth is one of the most impressive fossil mammals I’ve ever seen.
Even more ginormous are the whale skeletons looming over the Coastal North Carolina exhibit. My faves were the blue whale…
…and “Trouble,” the skeleton of a sperm whale that washed up on the Carolina coast in 1928. The name came from the ordeal museum personnel had getting the bones back to Raleigh.