What are the Cincinnati Mammoths? (Hint: it’s not a sports team)

Before heading back to Chicago, my family and I stayed overnight in Cincinnati so we could visit their amazing zoo and say ‘hello’ to their celebrated hippo, Fiona. With a few minutes to kill before the zoo opened, we took a quick Prehistoric Pit Stop to an industrial section of the city to see a family of woolly mammoths. These beautiful, lifelike statues proudly stood in front of the city’s Natural History Museum before the building shut down and the museum moved to a new center in 1990. The mammoths were built in 1980 by artist, Neal Deaton.   

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Holy, Toledo! Life-Sized Flying Reptiles at the Zoo!

While taking a weekend road trip with the kids from Chicago to Pittsburgh, we decided to stretch our legs at the Toledo Zoo. I’ve been there before with friends; the last being about five years ago. I had no idea that since that time its become a Prehistoric Pit Stop.

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Safari Ltd.’s 2018 Macrauchenia!

Macrauchenia is one of the more confusing prehistoric mammals ever discovered with nasal openings high on the animal’s skull suggesting a tapir-like nose. Since soft tissue doesn’t fossilize, however, this can only be theorized. What is known is that the animal lived in South America during the Pleistocene (20,000 – 10,000 years ago) in an environment, not unlike today’s African Savannah. It shared its habitat with other herbivores such as camels and ground sloths while likely serving as a favored prey item for terror birds and saber-toothed cats. Their lineage has long been debated, though recent  DNA tests may have finally revealed their place on the mammal family tree. They’re likely the last twig on a now extinct, sister branch of perissodactyls – odd number of toes/grinding molar teeth such as rhinos. And now, Safari Ltd. has added this rare and wonderful animal to their collection.

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A Prehistoric Pit Stop at the Black Hills Institute of Geological Research!

Last August, I took my kids on a South Dakota road trip while making some prehistoric pit stops along the way. At the top of the list was the Black Hills Institute of Geological Research which I’ve wanted to visit for some time. T-Rex enthusiasts know these are the folks who excavated “Sue” and “Stan” and are renowned for their marvelous replicas. To be in “dinosaur country” was particularly exhilarating for a Chicago guy like me, and I was downright giddy when we pulled into the museum’s lot that gorgeous summer evening. We would not be disappointed.

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Safari Ltd.’s Malawisaurus: Out of Africa and Onto Your Shelf!

Though one of the smaller sauropods (and by small I mean over fifty feet and ten tons) Malawisaurus was no less impressive. The animal lived in Africa – specifically what is now Malawi, during the early Cretaceous and is one of the few titanosaurs where skull material has been found. And now, over 90 years later, Safari Ltd. is finally bringing one our shelves.

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Buzzsaw Sharks at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science!

Continuing on with my 2016 visit to the New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science, I should mention what drew me there in the first place. I was in the midst of a two week/3,000 mile southwest road trip and looking for things to do while passing through Albuquerque. What caught my attention was the museum featuring the traveling exhibit, “Buzzsaw Sharks from Long Ago” featuring one of the strangest members of the shark family tree, Helicoprions. These fish are notable for their unusual mouths with spiral clusters of teeth called “whorls.” For this reason, the extinct family of fish is commonly referred to as “buzzsaw sharks.”

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T-Rex “Stan” at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science!

While traveling through the Southwest in 2016, I stopped off at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science in Albuquerque. The purpose was to see their traveling Buzzsaw Sharks of Long Ago exhibit currently featured at the University of Texas in Austin. It featured Helicoprion fossils as well some fantastic life-size sculptures and over twenty original works of art courtesy of Ray Troll. Though it was ancient sharks that originally drew me to this Prehistoric Pit Stop, they had a pretty nice fossil collection of their own, including yet another cast of Tyrannosaurus Rex, “Stan.”

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