While in Spain a few weeks ago for Dinosaurios 2.0, I spent a couple of days in Madrid, including a visit to the Museo de Ciencias Naturales! Let’s take a quick look around what this cool old museum has to offer.
Sites just a short drive from Madrid have revealed an abundance of Miocene fossils showing that this part of Spain was once a dry, savannah-like ecosystem populated by ancient elephants, carnivorans, hippos, and a recently described giraffid!
Madrid’s proximity to Miocene-aged outcrops means there’s a lot of species on display that I don’t get to see very often in Canada, like this Deinotherium! It’s hard not to love those awesome downturned tusks on this weird proboscidean.
There’s also a really stellar display of the incredible diversity of proboscidean teeth. Along the top we’ve got (from right to left) an African elephant, mammoth, Asian elephant, Stegodon, and Anancus (a straight-tusked proboscidean kind of like a gomphothere).
And along the bottom, we’ve got Tetralophodon (another anancid), Gomphotherium, Deinotherium, Phiomia (a more basal proboscidean), and Moeritherium (one of the earliest proboscideans and which looked more like a tapir than later elephants).
The Museo de Ciencias Naturales also has one of the Carnegie Diplodocus casts, and a pretty nice selection of casts of classic Jurassic and Cretaceous dinosaurs.
A couple of nice finds elsewhere in the museum were of more recently extinct species, like this thylacine – a real skin, not a reconstruction.
Spanish ibex are interesting animals for those of us interested in the ethics and science of de-extinction. This is Capra pyrenaica victoriae, the Western Spanish Ibex, but a related subspecies, C. pyrenaica pyrenaica went extinct in 2000. Tissues collected from the last surviving female in 1999 were successfully cloned in 2009. Sadly, the clone lived for only a few minutes after birth, but it was one of the first and best examples of resurrecting an extinct subspecies to date.