Thud, thud, thud, thunders Leonardo into Dinosphere at The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, where part of this extremely rare dinosaur will make its public debut Wednesday, November 6, 2013. Leonardo is listed in the Guinness World Book of Records as having the best preserved dinosaur remains in the world. For now, visitors will be able to follow the dinosaur’s tale via his tail until the rest of his body is on display in March of 2014. At that time, Leonardo’s Lab will open for children and families to learn everything from what he had for his last meal to how he spent the last few hours of his life.
When this fossilized mummy was carefully unearthed from his grave in Malta, Montana in 2001, researchers had one of the first real looks at the skin, scales, foot pads, and even the stomach contents of the behemoths that roamed the planet 77 million years ago.
“When I saw Leonardo for the first time, the fossil skin was bathed in light washing over the beast from the side, The body seemed to glow. The ribcage was so beautifully preserved you might imagine the animal breathing, the chest rising and falling, “ said Dr. Robert Bakker, renowned paleontologist, Houston Museum of Natural Science. “And you see inside! There were windows into the great machinery of digestion, views never before available for any creature of the fabulous duck-bill clan.”
What sets Leonardo apart from all other discoveries is that his body serves up preserved proof of a dinosaur's last meal. That is something scientists could never before study. Another significant factor is, according to National Geographic, scales and tissue parts have been found on less than one-tenth of one percent of all dinosaurs ever excavated. It's estimated 90 percent of Leonardo's body is still covered in fossilized soft tissue. Recent 2 and 3-D X-rayed images hint at internal organs.
Leonardo is a juvenile Brachylophosaurus canadensis, a type of Hadrosaur dinosaur. Hadrosaurs are more commonly known as "duckbills" because of their keratin beak. Hadrosaurs were plant-eating dinosaurs. The name "brachylophosaurus" means small crested lizard. Leonardo is believed to have been about four years old when he took his last breath and collapsed into the water, which helped preserve him. He was “only” 23 feet long and maybe two tons at the time of his death.
“We are thrilled to be able to share such a rare specimen with our visitors,” said Dr. Jeffrey H. Patchen, president and CEO, The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. “We continually search for high-quality, scientific specimens to augment our collection and enrich the lives of children and families who visit the museum. Leonardo is one of the most extraordinary paleontological discoveries in the world and it is our hope he will not only provide new insight into what sustained these creatures millions of years ago but that he will inspire our visitors to learn more about dinosaurs and potentially become paleontologists themselves one day.”
This rare mummified specimen will join other rare fossils such as the Dracorex hogwartsia and a Gorgosaur with a brain tumor in the museum’s Dinosphere exhibit March 8, 2014. Renowned paleontologist Dr. Robert Bakker will continue leading research on the teenage Brachylophosaurus (Duckbill) skeleton.
“Leonardo invites us to a safari into his inner secrets. Scholars and amateur dino-philes alike can test century-old theories,” exclaimed Bakker. “Were duck-bills merely dinosaurian moose, munching on soft water plants? So read the textbooks from 1860 up through the '1960's. No!! The guts say that theory is bunk. Duck-bill jaws were armed with the finest cranial cuisinart ever evolved within the entire Dinosauria. Look closely at Leonardo's muzzle and jaws. There is a never-ending supply of tooth crowns, closely packed to make a rotary food processor.”
Leonardo, named after graffiti found carved into a rock near where he died, comes to The Children’s Museum as a 10 year long-term loan from The Great Plains Dinosaur Museum and Field Station in Malta, Montana. “This joint venture allows us to share one of our treasures with a world-class organization while educating thousands of children and families,” said Carolyn Schmoeckel, president, Great Plains Dinosaur Museum in Malta, Montana. “The dedication of The Children's Museum of Indianapolis to creating learning experiences for the whole family is well known around the world. We're extremely honored to have Leonardo in their care and the focus of one of their new exhibits." The Great Plains Dinosaur Museum and Field Station is one of 14 facilities along the Montana Dinosaur Trail. Each facility displays some of Montana’s finest dinosaur specimens. Visit www.mtdinotrail.org for more information about the amazing Montana Dinosaur Trail.