Inside Houston museum's incredible $85 million dinosaur hall with Triceratops skin, T. rex with full hands and a fossil who died in childbirth


Impressive: The $85 million wing of the museum will have the only Triceratops skin found to date and a unique T-rex fossil with complete hands

Pups in her womb, a large eye visible behind the rib cage, one baby stuck in the birth canal: all fossilized evidence that this ancient marine beast, the Ichthyosaur, died in childbirth.
Jurassic Mom's almost certainly painful death is perfectly preserved in a rare fossil skeleton, one of the many unique items that will go on display in the Houston Museum of Natural Science's $85 million dinosaur hall when it opens to the public June 2.
Paleontologists and scientists at the museum and the Black Hills Institute of Geological Research in Hill City, South Dakota, have worked tirelessly for three years to collect, clean and preserve artifacts designed to give visitors a look at how life evolved beginning 25 billion years ago.

Hard work: Paleontologists from the Black Hills Institute of Geologic Research with the help of film industry prop artists install a Tyrannosaurus Rex fossil skeleton

'You'll actually be able to touch a fossil that's 3.5 billion years old,' Robert Bakker, the museum's curator of paleontology, says in a conspiratorial whisper. 'A microbe, simpler than bacteria, which had in its DNA the kernel that would flower later on into dinosaurs, mammals, then us. That's the beginning of the safari.'

What long teeth you have! Director Pete Larson of the Black Hills Institute of Geologic Research, back, and artist Tomas Schneider, right, attach a Tyrannosaurus Rex fossil head into place

His long white beard and locks bobbing with all-too-obvious excitement, Bakker raises his brows below his cowboy hat as he continues to describe the journey visitors will experience when they enter 'The Prehistoric Safari', expected to be among the top six dinosaur exhibits in the United States.
Jack Horner, curator of the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, Montana, who acted, along with Bakker, as an adviser on the Jurassic Park movie series, agreed there will be some unique and exclusive items on display in Houston, including Triceratops skin.

Coming together: Paleontologists and scientists have worked tirelessly for three years to collect, clean and preserve artifacts

But he said that to him, an object's value is determined by science and should always be peer-reviewed before being displayed.
'Anybody can have stuff,' Horner said, adding that he is curious to see the scientific findings on the items displayed in Houston. 'Opinions are cheap.'
Bakker says the safari is designed to teach about evolution. Visitors, he explains, will experience the Cambrian explosion, when life went from 'literally slime' into 'beautiful, elegantly sculptured things, the trilobites, which are gorgeous.'

Project: Robert Bakker, the museum's curator of paleontology, is excited about the opening of the new hall

These bizarre, insect-like creatures, which are sometimes horned or sporting antennae, roamed the Earth's seas in the Paleozoic era before the dinosaurs and were one of the most complex living things that existed to that point.
At the Houston museum, visitors will be treated to one of the largest displays of trilobite fossils in the world, and Bakker rubs his hands with enthusiasm at the thought of young children pressing their nose to the glass to get a glimpse or reaching a tiny finger out to touch an impossibly old piece of rock.

Precision: Director Pete Larson of the Black Hills Institute of Geologic Research, right, and artist Tomas Schneider work with the fossils

The hall also will house the world's only complete fossil of a snake-type creature from 50 million years ago, said David Temple, the museum's associate curator of paleontology. The snake is related to the constrictor, and the only other fossil of this type disappeared about 60 years ago.
Original sculptures, paintings and murals will depict scenes scientists and paleontologists believe occurred based on the fossil evidence, Temple said.

Ancient: Curator Robert Bakker shows a fossil of a Ichthyosaur and unborn pups that will be on display in the new Hall of Paleontology at the Houston Museum of Natural Science

And there are creatures native to Texas, including a Glyptodon, an Ice Age, armadillo-type creature the size of a Volkswagen Beetle, and one of the best preserved fin-backed reptiles that preceded the dinosaurs.
'This is what life was like at the beginning of natural history,' Temple said.

source: dailymail