4.7.08

a proper fossil hall (the last museum part 4)

Location: Auckland War Memoiral Museum
Gallery: Natural History


having finished off new zealand's modern natural history on the second floor of auckland's ginormous museum, i came across the most wonderful surprise as a conclusion to the natural history section...

it started with a nice moa display. again nice, but if you want the best in the country you'll have to come see ours at the otago museum. having now seen every major museum in new zealand's moa display you'd have to combine any of 3 of them to get as many moas as we have (with the exception of auckland and te papa, if you combined just these two you'd match us).

though in a seperate case was a mounted skeleton of Dinornis giganteus the largest species of moa that we know of. that was cooler than any of our singular moas at the otago... though we still beat them overall on numbers and variety, but we don't have a Dinornis.

they also in this display had a bust of sir richard owen, the guy who not only described moas but us dinosaurs.


so this made it into my top 10 individual displays of new zealand.

adding to the amazing factor of auckland was a fully restored model of Dinornis just around the corner! look at how tall it is compared to that child in the background.

than came the fossils, and i have to say (as you'll see people of the innerweb) this was new zealand's best display on the prehistoric past.

we started off with a bunch of palaeozioc era critters. my favourite among these were the placoderm or armoured fish. a few of them were from new zealand...

there was also a cast of new zealand's biggest ammonite. i'd seen this is already at the museum of caves in waitomo, but it was cool to see it in a big fossil gallery like auckland's.

speaking of auckland's big fossil gallery, it definately was the best in new zealand. part of the reason though is that they took a different approach to filling it than the other museums in new zealand (apart from christchurch's canterbury museum) which was to get specimens and casts of prehistoric critters from elsewhere in the world.

i can't say i blame them, the reason te papa doesn't really make an impact for its fossils, where it is an AMAZING museum for everything else, is that due to its only displaying new zealand material it doesn't have much to display in the line of fossils (due to NZs very volcanic history).

the coolest was the cast skeleton of a pteranodon. i'd never actually seen the skeleton of one before.

in fact come to think of it... this was the first mounted pterosaur skeleton i'd ever seen! most places like the tyrrell and te papa have fleshed out restorations and i've seen tons of those... but most places i just realized don't do skeletons for some reason... must be because they don't perserve that often and their so fragile...

than came probably my favourite display of the whole trip, and it couldn't have been better timed than here at the (hopeful) end of my quest. a case with a cast of every single dinosaur bone of new zealand (well okay minus the cathlam island theropod, and the brand new titanosaur).

don't get me wrong. i still love te papa's similar display in their geology hall. at the same time it doesn't quite do the same trick. though their's displays only real bones (and thus only the dinosaurs in the te papa collection) this is only about half of new zealand's dinosaurs. further more te papa also added pterosaurs and marine reptiles to the display case thus adding confusion to these reptiles NOT being dinosaurs!

auckland's case of nothing but dinosaur bones was cool because with a simple glance you knew what you were getting, and that it was complete (except of course the titanosaur as its brand new to science this month! or the cathlam island theropod due to its being across the "ditch" in australia). at the same time it was sad just due to new zealand having so few dinosaurs that they'd all fit in a case the size of a dresser draw.

due to the time crunch of trying to finish the museum quest people of the innerweb i won't be palaeo FACTing about the rest of new zealand's dinosaurs today... however stay tuned as i'll putting together this follow up post SOON!

there was a small selection of complete dinosaur skeletons borrowed from elsewhere in the world. i noticed how all of them were at least similar to some of new zealand's known dinosaurs.

a dryosaur from america was a great reference to get an idea of what the kiwi hypsilophodontid would look like.

a malawisaur titanonsaur is a good generic cretaceous saurpod which either of new zealand's two known saurpods could have resembled (Palaeo FACTs for one of them here and the other here).


i suspect the cryolophosaurus of the early jurassic was picked more because it was from the close to new zealand continent of antarctica, rather than it's being a likely model for the few known kiwi theropods (Palaeo FACT here). as new zealand's dinosaurs are all cretaceous, other than a single small theropod (getting FACTed soon!), there is very little chance they were much like the primitive cryolophosaurus especially with its very unique head dress.

all these dinosaurs were ubber awesome to see as i'd never gotten the chance to see them in canada. typically in my neck of the woods back there we only get north american and chinese cretaceous dinos. the cryolophosaur in particular was really cool to see as dr. phil currie of the tyrrell helped complete excavate it in my birth year of 2003 (him telling everyone at the museum this story of adventures is one of my foundest memories from my childhood!).

they also had a nice cast of te papa's prognathodon overtoni mosasaur.

though continuing the trend of the dinosaurs for every new zealand partially complete specimen they had here at auckland, they had a nice complete cast skeleton of a similar creature from elsewhere in the world.

hanging from the roof for comparison a nice mosasaur skeleton (though i was a little annouyed they didn't say what exact type other than it was from kansas... like that's a big help narrowing down mosasaurs! half of known types are found in kansas for crying out loud!!!).

they also had a lovely cast of... you guessed it... te papa's tuarangisaurus keysi elasmosaur.

though they didn't have a fully mounted pleisosaur skeleton to compare to, they made up for it with not one cast of an in situ (that's fancy sciency talk for a fossil in the ground as we found it) plesiosaur...

but two of them!

they also had a cast of a mega huge paddle of a pliosaur (a type of short necked plesiosaur)... sadly it too was not labelled properly in the display, but i'm guessing probably an australian kronosaurus or maybe liopleurodon.

you'll also note the tiny little cute ichthyosaur above the paddle...

they had a REALLY nice partial skull and jaw of a kiwi ichthyosaur.

plus another cast in situ skeleton (the second being that one above the paddle mentioned a second ago...)


concluding the fossil hall was a really cool display on the process of fossilization, and kinda uniquely strata. these days science gets 80% of the key information about a prehistoric creature from the rocks that it is found in. this display in auckland did a great job of illustrating how these layers help us tell the story of life on earth... i've never seen a display quite like it, but i recommend it for all museums!

wrapping up the second floor meant i only had the first floor to do before my clean sweep of auckland was done. the baskets still hadn't reacted to anything, but that was okay. the first floor housed the most likely to jive with the kete. it was the maori hall...

next the last gallery of the quest...

2 comments:

The Flying Trilobite said...

These are some gorgeous specimens, and great photos. The mammoth ammonite is stunning.

(You look dashing too Traumador.)

Dinorider d'Andoandor said...

Pteranodons are cool but in this case my fave one was the moa