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).

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Walking With Dinosaurs at Burpee Museum

WalkingWithDinosaurs_PrehistoricPlanetMembership has its perks!

Burpee Museum will be showing BBC Earth’s Walking With Dinosaurs: Prehistoric Planet  on Friday March 13, 2015 during the PaleoFest Members Night. The Walking With Dinosaurs viewing will be accompanied by expert commentary from Drs. Stephen Brusatte and Thomas Holtz who were both consultants on the project.

Doors open for Members Night at 6pm, the Walking With Dinosaurs showing will begin at 7pm with questions and commentary following at 8pm. Members, call 815.965.3433 to RSVP by March 9th. Please bring your Membership Card and ID for check in.

Not a Member? Visit the Membership Page for details or call 815.965.3433 to join today! Membership to Burpee Museum includes membership to ASTC (Association of Science and Technology Centers) which provides free or reduced general admission to hundreds of Science Centers and Museums in the Untied States and around the world!

Be There or Be Square: PaleoFest 2015

"Eoraptor" (C) Csotonyi

“Eoraptor” (C) Csotonyi

Add it to your calendars now, PaleoFest 2015 will be held March 14 & 15, 2015!

Tickets go on sale Monday, December 1, 2014.

The upcoming PaleoFest will be hosted in partnership with the Smithsonian Institution and will once again feature an international symposium. The symposium, titled “The Beginning of Dinosaurs and the Origins of the Modern World,” will feature two dozen researchers who’s primary focus is the flora and fauna of the late Triassic and early Jurassic periods.

The PaleoFest Dinner has been transformed into “Burpee Museum Presents: Hans-Dieter Sues at PaleoFest” and will be hosted by Cliffbreakers Resort, the host hotel. Dr. Sues is the Senior Scientist and Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. and is also the co-convener of the symposium.

In addition to the symposium events, Burpee Museum will also be hosting Triassic and Jurassic period themed PaleoPassport Stations, a Family Workshop about fossil tracks, and two Children’s Workshops. This year the Children’s Workshops will be: “Tooth Tales” where kids can learn about dinosaur teeth and jaws with Dr. Matthew Bonnan, Stockton College, recommended for kids 5-9 years old. Older aspiring paleontologists can work with Dr. Thomas Holtz, University of Maryland, on “T. Rex: Bones and Beyond” and learn how fossils help us learn about dinosaur behavior and classification, recommended for kids 10-14.

If you’re interested in attending PaleoFest visit Burpee Museum’s PaleoFest webpage for more details. We can’t wait to see you!

Highway to Hell Creek 2014 is underway!

Burpee Museum Field Crews have been working near Ekalaka, Montana preparing for the 2014 Highway to Hell Creek field season for the past two weeks. Already they have opened the “Pearl” site and have unearthed more of the rare Oviraptor, as well as opened the Double L Triceratops site and the Ninja Turtle site. Hopes are high for lots of great finds this field season!

L to R: Simon Masters, Gene Sullivan, Steve Landi, Hillary Parks, and Maureen Mall pose after finishing opening the Double L Triceratops site.

L to R: Simon Masters, Gene Sullivan, Steve Landi, Hillary Parks, and Maureen Mall pose after finishing opening the Double L Triceratops site.

They have also attended and presented at the second annual Dino Shindig at the Carter County Museum among many other very notable paleontologists. The first round of expedition participants arrived at Camp Needmore on Sunday and will be digging with the Burpee Crew all week.

Camp Needmore, the field crew's home for the next few weeks.

Camp Needmore, the field crew’s home for the next few weeks.

Stay tuned to the Burpee Facebook Page for updates about our finds from the field!

Countdown to PaleoFest 2013

My apologies for slacking on the posting front . . . I promise it’s only because we’ve all been working overtime on the preparations for PaleoFest 2013. Please accept this picture of an adorable baby Triceratops skull as compensation for lack of recent blog posts.

This little guy, a cast of UCMP 154452,  will be joining Homer and the other Ceratopsids in the new exhibit when it opens in May. (C) Burpee Museum

This little guy, a cast of UCMP 154452, will be joining Homer and the other Ceratopsids in the new exhibit when it opens in May. (C) Burpee Museum

For those of you familiar with Burpee Museum, you know that PaleoFest is our annual celebration of paleontology and dinosaurs. We normally have special children’s and family-friendly activities at the museum, in addition to public talks by well known paleontologists. This year, however, things are a little different.

PaleoFest 2013, to be held at Burpee Museum on March 2 and 3, 2013, is the 15th anniversary of PaleoFest, and we’re pulling out all the stops! This year we are partnering with the Cleveland Museum of Natural History to present a full scientific symposium titled “The End of the Dinosaurs: Changes in the Late Cretaceous Biosphere” – however, as usual, the general public is welcome to attend the symposium. The symposium will feature 30+ speakers from all over the world, in addition to several student poster presentations on Saturday evening.

In addition to the symposium Dr. John (Jack) Horner will be presenting the keynote address at the Saturday evening dinner lecture. Dr. Horner has published more than 170 professional papers, 9 popular books, and more than 100 popular articles. His book Digging Dinosaurs was described by New Scientist Magazine as one of the 200 most important science books of the 20th Century. Jack directs the largest dinosaur field research program in the world. Jack was the technical advisor for Steven Spielberg on all of the Jurassic Park movies, and on the FOX television show Terra Nova. He has been featured on CBS’s 60 Minutes, National Geographic, and The Discovery Channel. Jack is the Curator of Paleontology at the Museum of the Rockies, and Regent’s Professor of Paleontology at Montana State University in Bozeman, Montana. He is also a Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Paleobiology at the Smithsonian Institution, and an Honorary Research Fellow with the Natural History Museum in London. Jack lectures on dinosaurs, evolution and dyslexia. At the dinner lecture he will be presenting a talk titled “Dinosaur Shape-Shifting.”

We are also still hosting all of the same family-friendly and kid-friendly events. This year Dr. Scott Sampson (“Dr. Scott the Paleontologist”) will be presenting two children’s lectures at the Rockford Woman’s Club/Rockford Theatre as well as a children’s workshop at the museum. We also have two Burpee children’s workshops offered on Sunday. Kids can also complete all of the DinoBlast stations around the museum.

For more details about PaleoFest visit the PaleoFest website or call the museum at 815.965.3433