It was a long drive from Moab, Utah before we’d reach the Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Resource Center in Colorado; welcomed by replicas of a Styracosaurus and Daspletosaurus standing proudly outside its entrance. In choosing not to display the more traditional T-Rex and Triceratops, we could already see that this attraction would make good on its slogan of being a “whole new species of fun.” The Styracosaurus’ vibrant colors reinforced that boast as modern research suggests dinosaurs were actually quite colorful rather than the drab hues most of us saw them depicted as having in popular culture.
We walked inside and quickly found ourselves up close with some replicas of newer species such as what Paleontologists refer to as the “Chicken from Hell,” Anzu wyliei. This dinosaur was discovered in the Hell Creek Formation (which overlaps Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming) in 2014, and is notable for being the only known “feathered” dinosaur found in North America. Anzu wyliei also had sported a crest similar to modern day cassowary birds.
This family of oviraptorid dinosaurs had previously only been seen in Asia and its smaller eastern cousin, Conchraptor, was also displayed nearby.
This museum also featured a replica of the T-Rex “Stan.” The actual fossils of “Stan” reside at the Black Hills Institute of Geological Research in South Dakota which I’m planning to visit later this year. There are several casts of “Stan” across the country but not all displayed in the same manner. This one was depicted in a running pose which I really liked.
Stan was so dynamic, you could easily sidestep a smaller, rather controversial skeleton in the room. Since its discovery back in the ’40s, Paleontologists have been debating whether the true identity of Nanotyrannus was its own, smaller species of Theropod (named Gorgosaurus) or, as later finds would suggest, simply a juvenile T-Rex. Is Nanotyrannus a full grown species of pygmy T-Rex or merely a teenage Stan? Both sides offer compelling arguments to reinforce their positions and it’s unlikely to be settled anytime soon.
Whether Nanotyrannus is a T-Rex or not, “Stan” was not the only one of its kind here…
Another interesting theropod seen was the Appalachiosaurus. Parts of this juvenile specimen (believed to be in the Albertine Tyrannosaurus family) were discovered in central Alabama, It is notable for being the most complete known theropod in the eastern portion of the US.
The museum displayed lots of other different species of dinosaurs along with a few prehistoric mammals as well.
These folks are so determined to display new dinosaurs they don’t even wait for it to be given an official name! Featured among their treasures was an unnamed Centrosaurine discovered in 2010…
But what really made this museum stand out was their special collection of sea monsters! And we’ll be diving into those in my next post!