STAN the T. rex is a truly spectacular display that you can only see in DinoDigs... Or Indianapolis... Or London... Or California... Or Arizona... Or Japan.

What gives? How can the same dinosaur be in so many places at once?

(Originally posted June 6, 2009) - Dinosaur fossils are fragile pieces of the puzzle of Earth's history. When we do find them (and it is tough - even if you know where to look) they are often broken up or missing pieces. Even STAN was missing about 30% of his skeleton when he was discovered. How do scientists bring them back for us to view in museums around the world?

We make copies! (or Casts, as we call them!) It's okay, because if scientists didn't do that, the whole world would only have about 3 or 4 complete T. rex skeletons altogether (and a ton of spare parts!) has an excellent article which explains the whole process. Check it out.


Now, does that mean that everything in DinoDigs is fake? Absolutely NOT! The full-sized skeletons are casts, but there are many other specimens on display that are the real-deal.

Our scary-looking Xiphactinus [zee-FACT-in-nuss] (which some scientists believe looked like a giant Beta fish) hangs from the ceiling in a cast form, just above a case that contains its actual skull! The Xiph. skull is still stuck within its matrix (the rock where it was found) and shows some fossil finds you just can't see in the hanging skeleton.

One cool thing for example is the tiny tooth from a shark called "Squalicorax" that started nibbling on the fish after it died; also check out the barnacles and oysters that grew in its eye socket. You know, once it's written down, that last sentence is kinda gross.

Then, you've got the six fossil cases filled with Florida's Fossil History, which showcases the tusk of a Mastodon, the teeth of the 50-foot Megalodon shark, Florida's State Fossil, and the most well preserved prehistoric dolphin skull ever discovered. (All the genuine article, by the way.)

Lastly, check out the round fossil case near the back of the exhibit! Inside of that case you'll see a big rocky lump sitting on a foam block. That's a fossil that our own paleontologists spent months cleaning and preparing (Step 1 of the "Make a Fossil Cast" Recipe). What you'll see is the humerus (upper arm) and rib of a young Triceratops. Inside we found fossilized bone marrow and a strange orange powder that turned out to be rust.


Think Out Loud:

Rust? What's rust doing inside a dinosaur bone?

I'll answer that question soon. But first, comment below with your guess as to why rust would form there!

Rock on!


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