No Dinosaurs? No More!

No bones about it—the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology is all about the history and culture of humankind, NOT dinosaurs.

Until now.

Lisa G and Brandon with boneMeet Nothronychus graffami (okay, the right humerus of Northronychus graffami) hailing from the Tropic Shale of southern Utah.

According to Brandon Hedrick, Ph.D. candidate in the Earth and Environmental Sciences Department, School of Arts and Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania, this bone is part of a therizinosaurid, who lived a while back—somewhere between 90 and 95 million years ago. Therizinosaurids are a group of theropod dinosaurs that appear to be herbivorous rather than carnivorous as is typical for theropods. They most resemble giant sloths. Nothronychus actually means 'sloth claw.

Right now the therizinosaurid bone, along with a rib of Avaceratops (about 77 million years old) are in the Penn Museums Casting Project room, surrounded by casts of much younger ancient human and hominoid bones (the oldest dating back about 3 million years). The specially formulated casts are the largest such collection of important hominoid fossils in the world. Today, new casts continue to be added to this important teaching and preservation collection, by Project coordinator and Physical Anthropology Curator Dr. Janet Monge (Director of the Casting Program), and long time lab manager and assistant Lisa Gimmell.

Both bones come from the collection of Penn professor and renowned paleontologist (and dinosaur hunter) Dr. Peter Dodson. Brandon Hedrick, who works closely with Dr. Dodson, brought the bones over to the Penn Museum casting lab in January so that perfect casts can be made prior to the work he will be doing with the bones. For his PhD dissertation work, Brandon will need to look at the microstructure of the dinosaur bones, which requires an invasive procedure—small cuts to the bones, with small sections of the bone made available for laboratory work. The mold and cast being made at the Penn Museum will preserve the original form of the bone for future generations who study the morphology of these species.

Photo: Lisa Gemmill (Penn Museum lab manager of the Casting Program) and Penn Ph.D. candidate Brandon Hedrick, with a little bit of a therizinosaurid, in the Penn Museum’s Casting Program room.


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