“This is a really great fossil,” Gray said. “It’s just about the most complete Triceratops ever found and the skull is the most complete skull ever found of any Triceratops. So it’s very cool just from that standpoint. But probably the coolest thing about this find was that they also were carefully excavating and realized that they were also finding bits of fossilized skin with the bones, which is kind of unusual.
“This was a first, a new discovery for science,” he said, adding the museum plans to acquire a cast of the fossilized skin in the future to use as an interactive exhibit. “So they saw on their little polygonal patterns — diamond-shaped patterns — and bumps in there that indicated the Triceratops may have had quills. ... We never thought of them in this way before — having quills or things sticking out away from their skin.”
On display in Tellus’ Fossil Gallery since April 8, the Triceratops cast is 7 feet long, 5 feet tall and 3 feet wide, with the longest horn being 3 feet.
According to Tellus’ news release, “The skeleton of the Triceratops was discovered in Late Cretaceous sediments deposited 70 to 65 million years ago on a ranch in northeastern Wyoming. The skeleton was then excavated in 2002 by a team from the Black Hills Institute for Geological Research. The most fascinating fact about the Triceratops, fondly named Lane after one of the rancher’s grandchildren, is that it was found with fossilized skin at the dig site.
“... The name Triceratops means ‘three-horned face.’ Studies show Triceratops may have reached 30 feet in length and may have weighed up to 12 tons. They were known herbivores (plant eaters) and were the largest Ceratopsian dinosaurs — or dinosaurs with horns and a large frill at the rear of the skull.”
For Tellus Executive Director Jose Santamaria, the skull replica’s quality far exceeds that of the museum’s previous Triceratops specimen.
“It is just a much better skull of a Triceratops than we’ve ever had before,” Santamaria said. “We always look to improve and enhance our exhibits, especially something cool like this that will have a real exciting impact on the visitor. This is a replica of the most complete skull ever found, first of all. Second, the one that we had was a partial skull and it was damaged.
“It was cool because it was cast by the guy who actually found it, so there was a history behind that. It was good for the time when we had it because we got that one back in the Weinman [Mineral Museum] days ... about 15 years ago. All exhibits and all specimens serve their purpose, but when you have the opportunity to get something much better and in this case something so complete — these horns are more than 3 feet long — that’s pretty exciting.”
Opened in January 2009, Tellus — an expansion of the former Weinman Mineral Museum — became a Smithsonian affiliate during its debut year. Encompassing 120,000 square feet at 100 Tellus Drive in Cartersville, the museum is comprised of four main galleries — The Weinman Mineral Gallery, The Fossil Gallery, Science in Motion and The Collins Family My Big Backyard hands-on science gallery — a 120-seat digital planetarium and an observatory.
The museum welcomed its millionth visitor March 27, a milestone that will be celebrated with Tellus’ Block Party April 26. Open to adults ages 21 and older, the event will be held from 7 to 11 p.m. and will feature food trucks, an open bar, an auction, music and games.
Tickets to the Block Party, which are $75 per person and $125 for two individuals, can be purchased in advance by contacting Jessica Cantrell at 770-606-5712 or email@example.com. For more information about Tellus and its upcoming events and programs, call 770-606-5700 or visit www.tellusmuseum.org or www.facebook.com/tellusmuseum.