Jane: Do the tails tell the tale?

"Jane" Burpee Museum's juvnile T. rex

“Jane” Burpee Museum’s juvnile T. rex

One of the questions most often asked at Burpee Museum is “How do you know Jane was a girl?” You see “Jane” is the juvenile Tyrannosaurus rex discovered by field crews in 2001 and the star of the Museum’s Diary of a Dinosaur exhibit. “Jane” was named after Jane Solem, wife of Robert H. Solem, a major benefactor and lifetime member of the Museum.

Currently it is unknown if “Jane” the dinosaur was male or female. In fact, determining the sex of dinosaur specimens is a question that paleontologists have long been trying to find a method or skeletal indicator that would allow specimens to be defined as male or female.

Scott Persons, paleontologist at University of Alberta at Edmonton, Canada, has recently proposed a new idea that may allow the sex of some dinosaurs be determined. His most recent study, published in Scientific Reports, suggests that skeletal traits of some dinosaurs tails may show sexual dimorphism (a distinct morphological difference between males and females) and could be applied to other specimens.

Persons’ study examined two oviraptorosaurs, nicknamed Romeo and Juliet, that were found in Mongolia in the 1990’s and first described in 2001. Through this study differences in bones called chevrons at the base of the oviraptorosaurs tails were discovered. One specimen had longer chevrons with broader tips. Persons hypothesizes that males may have had longer chevrons with broader tips for increased muscle attachments, whereas chevrons in females may have been smaller to facilitate egg laying.

As Thomas Holtz, University of Maryland, has pointed out, it will be very interesting to see if these differences are borne out in further, larger studies of chevron shape of small to mid-sized dinosaurs.

Perhaps someday soon we will be able to confidently answer the question of ” Is “Jane” a boy or girl?”

To read more about Person’s study check out these resources:

Tails Tell the Tale of Dinosaur Sex, Nature News

Persons IV, W. S., Funston, G. F., Currie, P. J. & Norell, M. A. Sci. Rep. 5, 9472 (2015).

Introducing Abyssomedon williamsi

Elements of the newly described Abyssomedon williamsi from the early Permian of Oklahoma.

Elements of the newly described Abyssomedon williamsi from the early Permian of Oklahoma.

Abyssomedon williamsi is a new parareptile from the Richards Spur Locality in Oklahoma reported by Mark MacDougall and Robert Reisz from University of Toronto, Mississauga in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society.

Parareptiles are a sister taxon to Eureptiles, or “true reptiles,” and have traditionally included the anapsids. These species are generally very primitive. There is an unusually high number of Early Permian parareptile fossils found at the Richards Spur Locality in Oklahoma. A. williamsi is just the newest species described from the locality.

A. williamsi is an important new species. A. williamsi belongs to a clade of Parareptiles called nyctiphruretids, This clade is normally found in mid-to late Permian deposits in Russia. The discovery of A. williamsi in Oklahoma in early Permian deposits extends both the clade’s temporal and geographic range.

On a more personal note, A. wiliamsi has a very close tie with Burpee Museum; A. williamsi is named for Burpee Museum’s very own Scott Williams! Scott has collected in the Richards Spur Locality and has frequently collaborated with Dr. Robert Reisz on Permian projects that are part of the Museum’s permanent collection. In the paleontology world, to have a fossil species named after you is quite an honor. We hope you’ll join us as we congratulate the authors and Scott on this great new Parareptile species!

The Jane Diaries

Dr. Thomas Carr a Tyrannosaurid expert from Carthage College in Kenosha, Wisconsin has been working with “Jane” Burpee Museum’s juvenile Tyrannosaurus rex specimen from the Hell Creek Formation in south eastern Montana to determine if “Jane” is indeed a juvenile T. rex or if the specimen should be referred to a different species of theropod dinosaur.

"Jane" Burpee Museum's juvnile T. rex

“Jane” Burpee Museum’s juvnile T. rex

Dr. Carr has spent countless hours documenting and studying “Jane’s” fossil components to observe as many details as possible so that the specimen can be placed soundly into a fossil species based on morphological characteristics. If you would like to follow his journey into the details of “Jane’s” skeleton check out his blog Tyrannosauroidea Central or follow him on Twitter at @TyrannosaurCarr. His work with “Jane” will be published as a manuscript once his research is complete – keep an eye on Dr. Carr and Burpee Museum’s social media outlets for updates on the manuscript publication as well!

Chaos to Convention

Burpee Museum has had a whirlwind past three weeks.

In the last three weeks the museum, in conjunction with the museums in the Riverfront Museum Park and other Rockford museums, hosted the Illinois Alliance of Museums conference from October 22-24.

Burpee Museum also hosted a very successful Night Sounds event for families on the evening of October 24, 2014.

Scott Williams, Director of Science & Exhibits, also headed to Kemmerer, Wyoming to pick up
Green River fossil specimens to be prepped for the upcoming Fossil Lake exhibit.


This, however, was all leading up to #SVP2014 in Berlin, Germany. Four members of the Burpee Staff are attending the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology Annual Meeting. The museum is presenting two posters, and several additional presentations are utilizing Burpee specimens as part of their datasets or research questions. It is quite an honor for a museum of Burpee Museum’s size to be so well represented at a professional conference.

If you are interested in following along with hot topics being discussed at the meeting look for #SVP2014 on social media, or follow Brian Switek, author of the National Geographic Phenomenon: Laelops blog or check out Dr. Thomas Holtz’s Twitter feed at @TomHoltzPaleo.

The Bison are coming, the Bison are coming!

Bison return to Nachusa Grasslands.

Bison return to Nachusa Grasslands.

Or rather, the Bison are here!

Bison have returned to Nachusa Grasslands near Franklin Grove, Illinois as of Friday October 3, 2014.

20 Bison were transported from the Broken Kettle Grasslands near Sioux City, Iowa and brought to Nachusa. The animals are currently in a holding pen, and out of the public eye, as they acclimate to their new surroundings.  They will be visible from viewing areas in mid November.

The Bison are part of the Nature Conservancy’s plan for further restoration at the Nachusa Grasslands conservation site. Bison feed on different plant types than cattle or deer and will help to restore the prairie. Eventually the grasslands within the Nachusa site may support as many as 100 Bison!

If you’d like to know more about Bison returning to Nachusa, please visit the Nature Conservancy’s Nachusa Bison page.

50 Years of the Wilderness Act

Wilderness 50
A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.
– The definition of a wilderness area, eligible for protection under the Wilderness Act as written originally by Howard Zahniser.
The Wilderness Act was originally signed into law on September 3, 1964 and it is the premier piece of conservation legislation in the United States. It provides a way for the general population to work with congress to nominate unique and beloved wilderness areas and protect them at an especially high level.  It has also protected, to date, more than 110 million acres in the United States. These protected areas also provide crucial habitat for native species, including threatened and endangered species.
In celebration of the Wilderness Act, get out and enjoy your favorite wild place!

Project Passenger Pigeon

Burpee Museum is proud to be part of Project Passenger Pigeon, a movement to commemorate and learn from the extinction of the Passenger Pigeon 100 years ago. Project Passenger Pigeon encompasses all aspects of the birds’ demise and seeks to educate people about current conservation issues. As a part of the Project Passenger Pigeon, the museum will be installing an exhibit that combines exhibit work provided by Project Passenger Pigeon and specimens from the museum’s permanent collection.

Joel Greenberg's "A Feathered River Across the Sky: The Passenger Pigeon's Flight to Extinction" will be on sale at the lecture and opening!

Joel Greenberg’s “A Feathered River Across the Sky: The Passenger Pigeon’s Flight to Extinction” will be on sale at the lecture and opening!

The exhibit will open officially on September 9, 2014 with a Mahlburg Scholars Lecture by Joel Greenberg. Joel is the author of “A Feathered River Across the Sky: The Passenger Pigeon’s Flight to Extinction” as well as a lifelong birder and naturalist. He will be speaking about the extinction of the Passenger Pigeon 100 years ago and why it is important to us now. Please join us for his lecture on Tuesday, September 9, 2014 at 7pm, doors will open at 6pm. Admission to the lecture is $8 for adults (13 and up), $7 for kids (4-12) and free to Burpee Members; admission includes general admission to the museum.