Ultimate Dinos Sneak Peek: Dinos in the Big City

Posted: April 11, 2012 - 11:32 , by royal

We returned from the field in Patagonia to the Argentine capital, Buenos Aires. At about 13 million people in the metro area, BA is the largest city in the country, and third largest in modern Gondwana (behind Sao Paulo and Cairo). There are dinosaurs in Buenos Aires, but only in museums, as the fossils were found in other parts of the country- mostly Patagonia. We spent one day at the Natural Science Museum, or MACN, on the edge of Palermo. This is the main natural history museum of Argentina, and it houses an impressive collection of Argentine dinosaurs. Photos of the dinosaur hall have appeared in dozens of popular books that I remember from when I was a child, and it was great to be able see the gallery in person for the first time.

On an upper floor looking down into the dinosaur hall.

The dinosaur hall at the MACN in Buenos Aries

The museum is famous for housing the original skeletons of some of the most iconic dinosaurs ever found in the southern hemisphere, many of which were found and described by famed palaeontologist Dr. Jose Bonaparte and his teams in the 1980s and 1990s. Dinosaur research at the MACN is currently overseen by Dr. Fernando Novas, who also made innumerable contributions to Argentine paleontology. We were fortunate to be able to meet with Dr. Novas, who showed us the original fossil skull of Carnotaurus, one on the stars of the Ultimate Dinosaurs Exhibition. He told us about the history of paleontological discoveries in Argentina. We thank Dr. Novas for giving us a great interview for the exhibition documentary.

Dr. Frenando Novas stands beside a dinosaur skull resting on a table.

Dr. Fernando Novas with the fossil skull of Carnotaurus

The next day, we took a trip an hour down the road to the city of La Plata to see the Museo de La Plata. This museum is also over 100 years old, and has extensive fossil collections- particularly from the Age of Mammals. Dozens of skeletons of glyptodons and giant sloths filled the halls.

Standing inside a display case are three glyptodons.

Three glyptodons on display in the Museo de La Plata

As far as dinosaurs go, the collections are more modest, but there are some very notable specimens. The most spectacular in my opinion are the giant limb bones- the largest dinosaur limb bones that I have ever seen. There are two sets of upper leg bones that measure over 7-feet tall!

Dave Evans stands beside two giant dinossaur femurs that tower over him.

Bringing the trip full circle on our last day of filming, we got to see some pieces that were more close to home. On display in the galleries of the museum are two original dinosaur skulls from Alberta- an original Centrosaurus skull and an original Prosaurolophus skull. These specimens are not only Canadian, but they were collected by the ROM and traded to La Plata in the 1920s in exchange for the original fossil glyptodons and other mammal fossils.

Like baseball cards, museums trade fossils that they have good collections to acquire specimens that they do not yet have in their collections. This allows museums to tell a greater breadth of stories in their galleries, and it allows them to showcase important fossils localities from distant places around the globe. Although I work on dinosaurs, I am glad to have the glyptodons at the ROM, and it is good to know that Argentines can see the spectacular dinosaur fossils of Canada. It is a win-win for both sides, and a great end to our successful film making trip. Thanks again to all the museums that welcomed us and allowed us to tell some of their stories.

A skull on display in the Museum.

An original Centrosaurus skull in LaPlata, collected by the ROM.

Now back to the ROM as we prepare for Ultimate Dinosaurs.