My husband is interested in a lot of things, but social media is not really one of them. Facebook, Twitter, blogs…he dabbles, but that’s about it. So when he posts something, it’s because he means it. And when he posts something like this?
Excited about the new Archaeopteryx fossil at the Houston Museum of Natural Science! There are only 10 in the world, and this is the only one in North America so I have to go see it. It’s considered to be the oldest transitional fossil between dinosaurs and birds. It’s basically the first bird! Oh and the museum also has a flower that is about to bloom that smells like a rotting corpse. I love science.
Well. If that’s not impetus for a trip to the museum, I don’t know what is — because I love science too! (Hey, what do you expect from two engineers?) So we went on Saturday! And it was a MADHOUSE. I have never see the museum so crowded, even on a summer Saturday. I’m pretty sure Lois the Corpse Flower is the one responsible for the crowds! We bought a museum membership the day before, and even the members-only line was long. Craziness. Thankfully the wait wasn’t too bad, and we quickly picked up our tickets to see Lois. We had more than an hour to kill before our date with the stinky flower, which was plenty of time to see the archaeopteryx and other fossils!
The exhibit was way down in the basement of the museum, which is actually rather unfortunate since a lot of visitors might not notice it. On the plus side, it meant it wasn’t crowded at all and we could get up close and personal with some really old fossils.
That’s a coelacanth fish. I don’t really know how to pronounce that, but I did learn that this fish is a “living fossil” — while this one is obviously millions of years old, basically identical versions of the same fish are still alive in the ocean today. To which I say: that is one CREEPY fish.
But if that one’s creepy, this one’s just plain scary. It’s a geosaurus, which the placard next to it described as a “shark-tailed sea croc.” I’m pretty sure it’s a good thing that these don’t exist anymore. If they did, I doubt I would ever swim in open water again.
All these fossils were found in limestone from the Solnhofen region of Germany. It so happens that this limestone is also ideal for making lithographic printing plates and many of the fossils were found while quarrying for limestone for use in lithography. Jose got to see fossils, and I got to learn something new about printing and design! Win all around!
Finally we reached the end of the exhibit and the archaeopteryx itself. Only 10 of these fossils have ever been found, which means they’re very rare. But they’re also very important, because the archaeopteryx is the earliest and most primitive bird that’s ever been found and is a transitional fossil between dinosaurs and birds! It had jaws and a long bony tail — but it also had wings and feathers! What a crazy little creature.
After seeing all the fossils, it was time to head upstairs to visit Lois, but as a side note, I must disgress and talk about this picture from another placard in the exhibit. It depicts a wunderkammer, or “cabinets of curiosities” like those that some people had in Renaissance times. If you were rich, you could have a whole room in your house dedicated to whatever random stuff you came across — fossils, specimens, etc. The larger collections like this eventually evolved into museums! I’m not sure whether to be happy or sad that people no longer do this. If they did, I’m pretty sure Jose would have one. And I’m not sure how I’d feel about a crocodile hanging from the ceiling.
Anyway, we went back upstairs to join the line into the Butterfly Center and after a short wait, we finally got to see the infamous Lois the Corpse Flower! It was very exciting, even though the peak of the bloom was on Friday morning and we therefore missed the stink. I’m glad we went on Saturday, since the tall thing in the middle — the spadix — collapsed on Sunday afternoon as the flower began to wilt. But the plant doesn’t die — it just goes dormant as it works to rebuild itself. If they’re lucky, maybe Lois will bloom again in a few years. What a neat flower.
I already posted most of them here, but the Flickr set has a few more photos of Lois and the fossils:
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