This page offers a collection of photos from a museum about dinosaurs. I saved the best photos for last, including the question which prompted me to return to the museum with my camera.
We are all like grains of sand in the long continuum of time, when you consider what came before us. Austin used to look a bit different. Once upon a time, Austin's Town Lake might have looked something like this.
The Brazos river was bigger than the Mississippi.
Click on the poster to get one. It is well worth having. You can also get it from Amazon.
There were big fish everywhere, like this Xiphactinus (also see video),
and marine reptiles, like this Mosasaur (video), which was found in the Onion Creek area of Austin.
It was literally eat or be eaten.
These Plesiosaur remains were also found in Austin, on Shoal Creek.
A partial skeleton of another Plesiosaur was found in Falls County, Texas, and was used to make this exhibit.
Some remains of a giant sea turtle were found in McClennan County, Texas.
During the Permian Period, (290-250 million years ago), the waters receded to expose land.
The Edaphosaurus (video) lived in the swamps, eating plants,
and was related to the Dimetrodon, though the Dimetrodon was carnivorous.
The Trilophosaurus was an herbivore.
Reptiles, like the aforementioned lizards, shared the swamps with amphibians, like this Eryops Megacephalus, a carnivore and one of the largest land predators of its time.
During the Triassic Period, (250-205 million years ago), reptiles ruled,
like this heavily armoured Aetosaur.
There were crocodile-like reptiles, like the Phytosaur,
and anphibians, like this Buettneria Perfecta.
During the Cretaceous Period, (145-65 million years ago), there was the Tyrannosaurus Rex, one of the largest land carnivores of all time. He ate Aggies for breakfast!
A few teeth from a close relative were found here in Texas.
Here are the heads of two duck-billed dinosaurs, a Parasaurolophus and a Hadrosaur.
There was a head of a pointed lizard, the Centrosaurus.
The Tertiary Period, (65-2 million years ago), followed an extinction at the end of the Cretaceous Period.
There were some large animals around, as suggested by this lower jaw from a Shovel tusked Gomphothere, a prehistoric elephant, found in Roberts County, Texas.
Not all examples in the exhibit were found in Texas. This American "Zebra", one of the oldest horses of the genus Equus, was found in Idaho.
The period of the Ice Ages brings us to more recent times. This exhibit shows a Scimitar-toothed cat, a dire wolf,
a long-nosed Peccary,
and a giant Ground Sloth, among others.
The Glyptodont must be the biggest armadillo you ever saw!
These skulls of a Mammoth and a Gomphothere, both found in Texas, show how enormous these animals really were. (Remember the lower jaw from another Gomphothere in a photo above?)
In Texas, they came big and small, like this large Bison head next to a small cottontail rabbit.
Here is the best for last, the Pterosaur, found in what is now the Big Bend National Park, Texas. With a forty-foot wing span, this flying reptile was big,
with a huge head, shaped as if it had been designed to scoop up fish from just below the surface of the water, the way seagulls do today.
It had claws in its wings.
Its body had a rib cage, vertebrae, a pelvis, and a tail, which begs the question: how is it that a flying lizard from seventy million years ago could have a body with so many similar features as human beings and other mammals today?
Thinking about this creature made me question our raison d'Ítre and our place in the grand scheme of things.
If you get to visit Austin, this museum is well worth a visit. I could not take pictures of everything there, and my photos do not do justice to the artifacts, and the experience of actually being there to see them yourself.