Did you make a guess at this week’s Access Points photo game? Griftdrift did, and he was dead-on.
It is the Giganotosaurus skull at Fernbank Museum of Natural History. This fiberglass cast gets dragged out for all kinds of events, like the “Night at the Museum” sleepover last month, but it’s been around the museum longer than most of its dinosaurs.
We all think of Fernbank as The Place to See Dinosaurs in Atlanta, but the trademark skeletons in the museum’s Great Hall have really only been on full display since 2001. When Fernbank opened in 1992, they were simply the big dream of staff members and volunteers.
“People associated natural history with the bit picture and dinosaurs are a big, literally, part of that,” said Christine Bean, Fernbank’s vice president of education. “They were big, they were unusual and they’re extinct. We have a natural draw to that story. We wonder if that’s going to be our story.”
Bean is a geologist who has been with Fernbank for 16 years, first as a volunteer. She remembers the pre-dino days, when a temporary exhibition of bones from China made them daydream about dinosaurs of their own.This skull was on display for another temporary exhibition in the late 1990s, and it helped them to learn about what types of dinosaurs they really wanted for their Great Hall: a Giganotosaurus carolinii and Argentinosaurus huinculensis.
They were big and new — both were discovered in Argentina in the late 1980s and early 1990s.The Giganotosaurus lived during the Cretaceous Period, 100 million years ago, and although it was a piddly 47 feet-long, 12-feet-tall, 8-ton theropod, its prey could be dinosaurs up to 10 times its size. (Indeed, it might have munched on its plant-eating 125-feet, 100-ton neighbor, if it were old and slow enough.)
The dinosaurs moved into the museum after it raised $1.4 million. The Giganotosaurus went up in about a night; its (much larger) friend took months to build.
This week, Bean counted 12 dinosaurs among the museum’s collection — some of them just got new names — but the predator with the tiny arms is a favorite.
“People are really attracted to predators,” Bean explains of the T-Rex cousin. “Just the size of the skull, looking into that mouth and seeing those teeth. To think of something like that stalking you, being able to take you out with a single bite — it captivates the imagination.”
Want to go? Fernbank Museum of Natural History, 767 Clifton Road N.E., Atlanta. $13-15, free for members and children ages 2 and younger. 404-929-6300, www.fernbankmuseum.org.