Categories: Organization

Wyoming Dinosaur Center, Thermopolis, WY, United States

The Wyoming Dinosaur Center is a 501c(3) non-profit organization devoted to the advancement of education, outreach and research. Wyoming Dinosaur Center is one of the few dinosaur museums in the world to have excavation sites within driving distance. We provide outstanding hands-on geologic and paleontological experiences that are engaging and enjoyable for visitors of all ages.

This world-class facility displays one of the largest and most unique fossil collections in the world and our dig sites have some of the richest fossil bearing strata in the western United States.

Wyoming Dinosaur Center is to explore, explain, and sustain Wyoming’s natural history legacy. It is vital that we preserve and protect Wyoming’s natural history treasures for future generations and insure that they are available in a public venue for scientific and educational study and preservation.

The museum gallery has 28 mounted dinosaurs, including the addition of a full mount of Supersaurus. The skeleton is 106 feet long, and is the first mount based on new data from the more complete “Jimbo” specimen (WDC DMJ-001). There is also an impressive display of pre-Mesozoic fossils on display, including numerous Devonian fish.

They mysteriously disappeared long before the rise of mankind. Only in the last century have we discovered just how important and complex these creatures were and what their lives may have been like. Dinosaurs were first discovered on Warm Springs Ranch in 1993. Fossil hunters were walking the ancient rolling hills around Thermopolis and discovered dinosaur bones weathering out of the mountainsides. This first discovery led to the construction of the Wyoming Dinosaur Center, located at the southern margin of the Big Horn Basin. The complex includes a world-class museum, dig sites, a complete preparation laboratory and an outstanding gift store. The museum provides visitors a window into the ancient past where creatures from prehistory are revealed. Starting with single celled protozoa, the Walk Thru Time allows visitors to trace the origins of complex life on Earth.

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Visitors will witness the rise of the arthropods, including a mass death of trilobites, early fish including the Coelacanth, who is the predecessor of land vertebrates, and meet some of the earliest vertebrates such as Dimetrodon. This journey through the first three quarters of life’s history on Earth culminates in the rise of the dinosaurs. In the Hall of Dinosaurs lies “The Thermopolis Specimen”, the only Archaeopteryx outside of Europe, a Supersaurus named “Jimbo”, one of the largest dinosaurs every mounted, and “Stan”, a 35-foot T-Rex charging a Triceratops . With over 30 mounted skeletons and hundreds of displays and dioramas, the Wyoming Dinosaur Center will educate, inspire and capture the imagination of children and adults alike.

Dinosaurs walked around Thermopolis between 65 and 145 million years ago during the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. Step through the doors of The Wyoming Dinosaur Center and you are transported into a world where rulers of the earth were not men but creatures that would think modern elephants were a snack. Tyrannosaurus rex, king of the dinosaurs, had flesh-tearing six-inch teeth. Though they may be extinct, their massive bones remain to educate and thrill us. The Museum has over 30 mounted dinosaurs, a modern preparation laboratory and hundred of displays and dioramas. Among the featured displays in the Hall of Dinosaurs are two Velociraptor specimens, which are shown hunting the early horned dinosaur, Protoceratops.

Another notable fossil assembly is from the “SI” site, which presents the rare occurrence of both footprints and skeletal fossils located in the same context (Jennings 2006). Recent research by Debra Jennings demonstrates the past occurrence at the site of a shallow alkaline lake with multiple layers containing bones and trackways; these assemblies were created as the lake expanded and shrank with changes in the environment over tens of thousands of years.

“The “Thermopolis Specimen” was discovered in Bavaria, Germany, and has the best-preserved skull and feet of the 12 specimens found to date. However, most of the neck and lower jaw have not been preserved. The “Thermopolis Specimen” was described by Mayr, Pohl, and Peters in the December 2, 2005 Science Journal. The description shows that the Archaeopteryx lacked a reversed toe, a universal feature of birds, limiting its ability to perch on branches and implying a terrestrial or trunk-climbing lifestyle. This has been interpreted as evidence of theropod ancestry. In 1988, Gregory S. Paul claimed to have found evidence of a hyper-extensible second toe, but this was not verified or accepted by other scientists until the “Thermopolis Specimen” was described and published. Until recently, the feature was thought to belong only to the species’ close relatives, the Deinonychosaurs. The “Thermopolis Specimen” was assigned to Archaeopteryx Siemensii in 2007. The specimen is considered to represent the most complete and best preserved Archaeopteryx remains yet. Most of the twelve specimens discovered and scientifically described include impressions of feathers, which make Archaeopteryx a clear candidate for a transitional fossil between birds and dinosaurs. Because these feathers are of an advanced form (flight feathers), these fossils are evidence that the evolution of feathers began before the Late Jurassic.”

Voted “most exciting” by kids is “Stan” a 41-foot T-Rex that is attacking a Triceratops horridus. The walk through time displays are arranged from earliest life forms to dinosaurs and mammals. The noteworthy collection includes fossil fish from Scotland, flying reptiles from Brazil, marine reptiles from Russia and Switzerland and fossil dinosaur eggs from China and Argentina. Tours of the Dig Sites begin as soon as the weather permits. The dig sites offer a rare opportunity to see dinosaur bones in the ground and actual excavation.