Wow look at me I'm being installed into the new exhibition. My friend
Dean has been working really hard to make me look good, you can see him
on the ground sorting out my tail.
Credit: Melinda Iser; Source: Museum Victoria
Curator Wayne Gerdtz with Jurassic poo. Image Benjamin Healley, Museum Victoria.
The lump looks small and unassuming. It has a rough texture and is surprisingly heavy for its size. This small pink and grey rock holds an intriguing secret. It is a 150 million year old sauropod dinosaur poo – fossilised and preserved as a record of life in a very different time.
Imagine standing in a lush Jurassic forest in what is present day Utah, USA.
The ground vibrates with thundering footfalls. It is a 25 tonne sauropod coming to feed. Its giant neck and small head reach into the dense vegetation to tear off some leaves. The mouthful of leaves travels down its long neck to its roomy stomach. Fermentation chambers filled with bacteria in its guts help break down the plant fibres and extract the nutrients. A soft lump of poo falls onto a bit of swampy ground, where it is preserved and fossilised – turned into stone. It is buried and remains hidden for 150 million years until someone digs it up. We acquire it for the museum.
Fossilised poo – or ‘coprolites’ – were unveiled at Melbourne Museum today in preparation for installation in the Dinosaur Walk, opening on April 3 at Melbourne Museum. A coprolite will be on open display in the new exhibition, enabling visitors to touch it for themselves.
How do we know it is dinosaur poo? It comes from a rock layer known as the Morrison formation, which is the right age and contains many fossils of Late Jurassic dinosaurs. It is the ‘right’ size and shape. It is similar to other lumps which have been analysed and have been found to have plant remains in them. The process involves looking at thin sections of the rock under a microscope, where traces of plants can be seen. We cannot be 100% sure our lump is fossilised dinosaur poo, but the evidence suggests it is highly likely.
Is it rare? Fossils of dinosaur bones are quite rare, but fossils of soft parts like skin, muscle or traces like poo are even rarer. The conditions to preserve a soft lump are unusual, so coprolites are rare.
I'm currently getting a new 'look', all my bones have been individually cleaned and freshed up to make me look good for the new exhibition. I'll be standing on my hind legs like the picture below.
I've also added a picture of ramp (second image) that is being built, I'm going to be exhibited down the end near Diprotodon, he's the fellow you can see right at the end of the ramp.
Not long now only one month to go before I'm back on show and you can come and visit me again.
Artist: Kym Haines, Source: Museum Victoria / Credit: Kate Phillips, Source: Museum Victoria
Above: Trilobites, fossil ferns and Diprotodon - all a bit older than me. (Source: Museum Victoria)
Time is an odd sort of thing – I’m always losing it, but you can never get it back. For example, one year ago, my son wasn’t even born. Ten years ago, I was still at University. A thousand years ago, Vikings were doing their thing in
Europe . A million years ago, ancestral humans hadn’t even formed recognisable civilisations. But 600 million years? It almost goes without saying, but that’s a very long time ago. As you can probably guess, quite a bit has changed on our planet in that time.
One of the challenges we’re facing with our new exhibitions in the Science and Life Gallery redevelopment is to make this sort of timescale comprehensible – the amount of time is so big that it is hard to wrap your head around. The first of the four exhibitions to open will be Dinosaur Walk, displaying dinosaur skeletons and others, aims to summarise the last 253 million years of land vertebrate evolution, starting just before the age of the dinosaurs, passing through the Mesozoic where dinosaurs, flying and marine reptiles ruled their domains, through to their extinction and the eventual rise (and demise) of the megafauna.
So how do you fit something as mind-bogglingly vast as hundreds of millions of years into an exhibition space less than 50 metres long at
Museum ? The answers to that are, with careful selection of display objects, some very clever (and patient) exhibition designers and an equally talented exhibition team!
And consider this - if you think that 253 million years sounds like a long time, the exhibition opening 12 months after Dinosaur Walk will go back in time more than twice as far, right back to the emergence of complex life on earth, around 600 million years ago. That exhibition will also include the stories of life underwater as well as on land, and the geological processes that have shaped the very land and seas themselves. So, soon you will be able to stroll through 600 million years of life and landscapes and 253 million years of skeletons before you have a mid-morning coffee at the Melbourne Museum Cafeteria.
I think I’ll go and have one myself right now….
December 17, 2008 09:39 by Margie
Credit: Rodney Start, Source: Museum Victoria
My time had arrived to start the process of getting ready for my new look in the Dinosaur Walk exhibition, I had ALL these men fussing over me (which was just fabulous) making sure I was taken apart in the correct way. I’ve got a video of the whole thing, take a look.
December 10, 2008 11:26 by Margie
Credit: Melinda Iser, Source: Museum Victoria
Do you like my reindeer ears? I think they are quite becoming.
Also I have this wonderful Christmas tree to look at which is very nice and environmentally friendly. Using low-energy production techniques and manufactured with environmentally friendly materials, it was designed by a company in Melbourne called Buro North.
December 5, 2008 11:31 by Margie
Margie the Amargasaurus. You pronounce my name a-marg-a-saw-rus (Amargasaurus cazaui to be technical). I’m from Argentina and lived there in the early Cretaceous period (a long time ago). Being a sauropod I walked mainly on four legs, but occasionally I had to reach up on my hind legs to bite taller plants. You can see me now at Melbourne Museum in the foyer standing on all four of my legs but I won’t be there for much longer! Read my blog and see where I am and what’s happening to me.
Artist: Kym Haines, Source: Museum Victoria
Concept drawing & elevation of Dinosaur Walk exhibition showing viewing platform.
Credit: Richard Glover, Source: Museum Victoria
Platform template placed in space to establish hanging points in the ceiling| 3D rendered drawing of platform in space.
Credit: Melinda Iser, source: Museum Victoria | Credit: Peter Wilson, Source: Museum Victoria
December 4, 2008 06:47 by Margie
Credit: Melinda Iser, Source: Museum Victoria
Hi Margie here – this is my blog.
EVERYONE can see me as they walk in the door at Melbourne Museum and I’m quite the main attraction sitting here in the foyer. Though I won’t be here for that much longer….. .I’m going off display on the 15 December – getting spruced up for display in the new exhibition Dinosaur Walk.
Come in and say HI – take a picture of yourself with me as I won’t look like this in the new exhibition, I’ll be rearing up from the floor with my front legs reaching the 2nd level of the museum!
In 4 weeks I start the process of getting a new look – I can’t wait!
An artists reconstruction of Pteranodon, one of the better known Pterosaurs. Artist: Kate Nolan
In a strange way, I feel sorry for some fossils. Take the flying reptiles (or Pterosaurs, with a silent “P”), for example – a group of unique animals that arose, flourished and diversified into myriad forms during the Mesozoic Era. Their success and diversity was over-shadowed for the most part, however, by the other dominant and better-known animals in the Mesozoic – the dinosaurs.
There is a misconception that the pterosaurs are a kind of flying dinosaur; not so, the Pterosaurs are a separate branch of the reptilian family tree distinct from the more popular land-lubbing dinos and those other underdogs of the Mesozoic, the marine reptiles. Pterosaurs (and their mates in the oceans) always seem to play second fiddle to dinosaurs, often relegated to second billing.…Pterosaurs didn’t even rate an appearance in the first Jurassic Park film, for example.
Part of the problem for the poor old Pterosaurs is their relative scarcity. This isn’t their fault – Pterosaurs needed to have small, lightweight bones so they could fly. Small, lightweight bones don’t preserve as fossils nearly as well as thumping great dinosaur bones, so as a consequence we find relatively fewer pterosaur fossils than dinosaur ones.
Some Pterosaurs were tiny, little larger than a sparrow, still others were truly enormous, and are the biggest animals ever to fly. The new skeleton display opening in the Easter holidays at Melbourne Museum will have the largest of all the known Pterosaurs, with an equally enormous name – Quetzalcoatlus, or as I’ll call her, Suzie Q.
Suzie will take a commanding position soaring over parade of skeletons in the new display, sharing the air above the dinosaurs with some of her smaller cousins. When you come to see the dinosaurs, spend some time appreciating the overhead underdogs – the rulers of the Mesozoic skies.