This month, my mom and sister took me to the Tellus Science Museum in Georgia, and I was spoiled with an afternoon of prehistoric life and outer space! The museum lobby showcases a huge apatosaurus skeleton, and my sister snapped a photo for me to share with all the dino geeks who frequent this blog.
The camera on my phone isn’t as nice as hers, but I snapped a few pics, too. Here is the apatosaur’s head in a position where he might be eating a planet.
The planets in the pic appear over the entrance to the planetarium where we enjoyed a presentation about how Earth was formed. This was fortuitous timing, because the film showed something I was reading about that very day: how an ancient proto-planet named Theia crashed into an early version of Earth, a cataclysmic collision that enlarged Earth and resulted in the formation of our Moon, our tilted axis of rotation, and eventually our ocean tides.
The film presented this event as a known fact, but it’s a hypothesis that best explains how things got the way they are now. The Theia hypothesis is explored in more detail in the book I took on my trip, an amazing and often poetic exploration of geology, chemistry, and cosmic history that begins with examining a single pebble found on a Welsh beach.
The Planet in a Pebble: A Journey into Earth’s Deep History by Jan Zalasiewicz is a bit wordy at times, being written by a lecturing professor. What it lacks in concision, it makes up for in its flowing language that links many scientific disciplines to each other and gives insights into how big-picture events like the origin of Earth relate to small-picture events at the atomic level, all to create the rocks we sometimes ignore beneath our feet but which, upon examination, reveal so much about our world.
The prehistoric exhibit at Tellus Science Museum showcases specimens found in Georgia, and it features some fossils visitors are invited to touch (including Megalodon teeth and Triceratops poop). The Appalachiosaurus pictured below was new to me.
This fearsome beast shares exhibit space with a pair of Dromeosaurs whose informational plaque needs a bit of an update. The plaque mentions feathers and the relation of dinos to modern birds as a kind of hypothesis, but these things are now known with about as much certainty as we can get. After all, we’ve found the feathers, and paleo-artist William Stout was among the first to depict them in his mural paintings for the San Diego Natural History Museum. You can read more about that in Prehistoric Life Murals by William Stout, which includes amazing reproductions of his paintings in a glorious hardcover volume.
Tellus also has aquatic beasts, including a Mosasaur and a sea turtle, the two main characters in one of my favorite stories, Archelon and the Sea Dragon by Francis K. Pavel. You might enjoy the short essay I wrote about the book for an undergraduate project a few years ago.
For flying reptiles, Tellus has a trio of Pterosaurs. Here’s one of them.
Tellus has prehistoric mammals, too, including this Smilodon.
These are just a few of the wonders in the prehistoric life exhibit. And I didn’t even photograph any of the awesome space exploration stuff. Tellus Science Museum has a bunch of other exhibits, too. I didn’t see them all, but I loved what I saw. If you go, you might call ahead to find out the showtimes in the planetarium, because several shows play at different times throughout the day. The Birth of Planet Earth is well worth seeing, and I’d have liked to see the other features if we had more time.
On your way out, you can visit the gift shop and get a cuddly ammonite and a few of his stuffed trilobite friends!
If you can’t make it to Georgia any time soon, Amazon also carries critters from this plush toy line called Paleozoic Pals.