Happy Darwin’s Birthday and Mardi Gras!

by Greg Mayer

Well, as previously noted, today is Darwin’s birthday and Mardi Gras. Laissez les bons temps rouler! At the Dinosaur Discovery Museum in Kenosha, Wisconsin, the festivities began on Sunday. I am happy to report that some WEIT readers made it to the Museum for the activities; unfortunately, they had left by the time I arrived fairly late in the day. The Museum exhibits consist of a hall containing a variety of dinosaurs, especially theropods, with most of the skeletons being high quality casts. The hall is big enough to contain a full size Tyrannosaurus, a full size Acrocanthosaurus, and many more.

The main hall of the Dinosaur Discovery Museum.

The main hall of the Dinosaur Discovery Museum.

For Darwin Day, little Charles Darwins, each giving some interesting facts about the dinosaurs, were scattered about the hall. They will remain as part of the permanent exhibit.

Charles Darwin explains feather evolution. The origin of birds is a theme of the Museum. Note CD's own incipient plumage.

Charles Darwin explains feather evolution. The origin of birds is a theme of the Museum. Note CD’s own incipient plumage.

In addition, for Darwin Day my University of Wisconsin-Parkside colleagues Summer Ostrowski and Chris Noto had a table of fossils, casts, models, and kids’ activities set up in the foyer hall.

Drs. Summer Ostrowski and Chris Noto at the DDM's DD celebration.

Drs. Summer Ostrowski and Chris Noto at the DDM’s DD celebration.

Chris Noto as Darwin.

Chris Noto as Darwin.

Also in the foyer, UWP grad student Sean Murphy had turtle shells and turtles on hand to help explain the evolution of turtles. Turtles, the quintessential charismatic mesofauna, have the most radically transformed body plan of any tetrapod: their shoulder and pelvic girdles are inside their rib cage. (Feel where your ribs are, and then your shoulders and hips, and then imagine how you would get both of the latter inside of the former!) The turtles were the hit of the day, and were featured in local news coverage (which I would link to except the Kenosha News website won’t show you anything at all without paying).

Sean Murphy demonstrates turtle shell morphology.

Sean Murphy demonstrates turtle shell morphology.

The turtles held a conference, no doubt favorably comparing their own mature self-knowledge to the frantic insecurities of their human companions.

Rhinoclemmys, Emydoidea, and Terrapene, in conference.

Rhinoclemmys, Emydoidea, and Terrapene, in conference.

Dr. Thomas Carr, director of the Carthage College Institute of Paleontology, which is housed at the Museum, was also on hand.

Thomas Carr and his friend, an Allosaurus.

Thomas Carr and his friend, an Allosaurus.

At the end, after the Museum closed, the dinosaurs had to return to their homes through the snow.

A dinosaur dashes to its car after participating in the Dinosaur Discovery Museum's Darwin Day festivities. Since it turns out that dinosaurs are warm-blooded, the snow was not actually a major problem for the dinosaurs.

A dinosaur dashes to its car after participating in the Dinosaur Discovery Museum’s Darwin Day festivities. Since it turns out that dinosaurs are warm-blooded, the snow was not actually a major problem for the dinosaurs.

9 Comments

  1. gbjames
    Posted February 12, 2013 at 7:18 am | Permalink

    Sorry we missed you, Greg!

    • gbjames
      Posted February 12, 2013 at 7:24 am | Permalink

      A note on the museum. It is a wonderful old Post Office building. The display is a single, large, well-filled room of dinos. The display is tightly packed, so there isn’t a lot of walking involved (a good thing with my f#@!*ing sore hip!)

      If there is one thing I would recommend for them, it would to take advantage of the length of the display room and put up some kind of timeline giving visitors a better sense of where the various fossils fit in the trajectory of life on Earth.

  2. Matthew Cobb
    Posted February 12, 2013 at 7:19 am | Permalink

    It is ALSO the birthday of Jan Swammerdam (1637-1680) who came up with the basis of fixism: “All animals come from an egg laid by a female of the same species”. http://www.janswammerdam.org

  3. Ludo
    Posted February 12, 2013 at 7:22 am | Permalink

    This might interest some of you: an at project in honor of Darwin’s birthday: Windows on Evolution. I especially like Henri Reilings ‘Natural Selection is looking at you’, which came out as Number One.
    http://www.stanford.edu/group/stanfordbirds/SAN/Darwin/T/WindowsOnEvolution/Awards.html

    • Ludo
      Posted February 12, 2013 at 7:22 am | Permalink

      sorry: art project

  4. Robert Bray
    Posted February 12, 2013 at 7:26 am | Permalink

    Just a nod to Abraham Lincoln, too, on this his shared birthday with Darwin: AL, proto-atheist, evolutionist, determinist and scientist.

  5. JBlilie
    Posted February 12, 2013 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    Nice post Greg!

  6. phar84
    Posted February 12, 2013 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    Happy birthday to arguably the greatest biologist in history ;)

    http://www.cell.com/current-biology/fulltext/S0960-9822%2808%2901689-8

  7. Posted February 12, 2013 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

    Chaswear.

    Nice.


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