After my visit to the Smithsonian I popped over to New York to spend some time at the AMNH. As luck would have it, the special exhibit The World’s Largest Dinosaurs had just opened a few weeks ago.
The AMNH already has a pretty big claim to fame sauropod-wise in their dynamic, rearing Barosaurus mount. In the Hall of Saurischian Dinosaurs, there’s also an Apatosaurus and the excellent Glen Rose sauropod tracks from Texas. But there was still plenty to see and learn from the new exhibit.
For all that the name implies, the World’s Largest Dinosaurs actually does not overwhelm with large sauropodiness. There are two very large pieces in the room, the Mamenchisaurus model and accompanying projection show, and a large mock-up of the lungs. The lungs were pretty cool and quite a clever way to convey how unidirectional airflow works for us tidal-flow mammals, and also did a great job emphasizing the great distances involved in just getting air to the lungs. Blue and red coloured lights tracked the progress of oxygenated and deoxygenated air into and out of the lungs. It was kind of abstract and it was beautiful, and I could see that this was catching people’s attention. It was just so darn weird that people had to find out what it was supposed to be.
However, many of the displays were smaller and at kid-height and focused on individual bits of anatomy – in this station, we see a braincase and brain, and there was a nice labelled diagram on the panel below. Other stations let you look in a microscope to see the pores in chicken eggs, through special glasses to see the different colour patterns a sauropod might have had, and a comparison of a sauropod vertebra to a giraffe vertebra. There was lots of hands-on stuff.
I also liked the emphasis on the diversity of sauropods. Although they all have the same basic bodyplan, there are really a great deal of variations on the long-neck-long-tail theme. I’m curious if the models above were maquettes for the large mural accompanying the exhibit. Featured sauropods include (from the back and then left to right): Argentinosaurus, Apatosaurus, Camarasaurus, Sauroposeidon, Europasaurus, Mamenchisaurus, and Amargasaurus. If I could have added a few more, I would have put in the short-necked Brachytrachelopan, the thagomizer-having Spinophorosaurus, and the tail-clubbed Shunosaurus. But perhaps I reflect a tail-bias in that previous sentence…
And finally, as a thyreophoran worker I would be sorely remiss if I did not feature this tremendous osteoderm…even though it’s not from an ankylosaur. It’s a titanosaur osteoderm from India. The responses to this station by the visitors included “What’s that? ….uh, what?” and “No really, what’s that?” Oh well. I liked you, shapeless osteoderm.
You can read another review of The World’s Largest Dinosaurs at SV-POW!