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Orton Geological Museum Mounts Antarctic Dinosaur Skeleton

Jesse Bethea Jesse Bethea Orton Geological Museum Mounts Antarctic Dinosaur SkeletonPhoto courtesy of The Ohio State University College of Arts and Sciences.
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You know T-rex and raptors and Dilophosaurus, sauropods and theropods and Ankylosaurus. But do you recall the coldest dinosaur of all?

Ohio State University geologist David Elliot was not looking for dinosaurs when he went to Antarctica in 1991. There wouldn’t have been much reason to — very few dinosaur fossils have ever been recovered from the frozen continent. Instead, Elliot was taking volcanic ash samples for the Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center from the area around Mount Kirkpatrick when he came upon the first bones of what would later be named Cryolophosaurus ellioti.

Now, 24 years after it was first named and described in a 1994 Science article, Cryolophosaurus has come to OSU. This week, a replica of the beast’s 24-foot skeleton was mounted at the Orton Geological Museum. The presence of the full skeleton at Orton is not just a means of attracting more visitors, exposing and perhaps enticing them into a life of science. It’s also a matter of state pride.

“There are no dinosaurs in Ohio. The rocks are the wrong age,” said Bill Ausich, director of the Orton Geological Museum, on the College of Arts and Sciences website. “But this dinosaur was found by one of our faculty members. It’s much more unique than the standard dinosaurs that you’ll see in other Ohio museums.”

Not long ago, Columbus was sorely lacking in dinosaurs. It was only in the last year that COSI opened their dinosaur gallery, featuring skeletons of Tyrannosaurus, Stegosaurus and other specimens on loan from the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

But, to be frank, T-rex is a bit mainstream at this point. Cryolophosaurus is a dinosaur for 2018 — weird, stylish and concerned about global climate change.

Its name means “cold crest lizard,” a reference to the Jurassic predator’s distinctive, swooping skull crest and its ancient home in the Antarctic. Of course, the presence of a large dinosaur on the continent suggests that Antarctica wasn’t always so frozen.

“This dinosaur is material evidence that climates have changed through time,” said Ausich. “In terms of dinosaurs, this discovery tells us something unique about what was happening in Antarctica during that time.”

The Orton Geological Museum has been operating for more than 120 years and is free and open to the public from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. On October 7, Orton will host an open house for alumni and friends of the museum to welcome the newly mounted “cold crest lizard.”

For more information, visit ortongeologicalmuseum.osu.edu.

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