Sunday, October 04, 2020

Dinos in Pop Culture - Brachiosauruses Everywhere in Chicago

Here is another Chicago geology post, this time focusing on some Field Museum dinosaurs. When visiting Chicago in 2016, one of my goals was to hit up the Field Museum, which happens to be one of the most famous paleontology museums in the world. While I was there I noticed the skeletal mount of a Brachiosaurus outside the main building. 

Brachiosaurus mount outside the Chicago Field Museum

It's hard to not notice a 40 foot high, 75 foot long Brachiosaurus standing guard of the museum. Besides being an outside stalwart of the museum, it is actually pretty famous for other reasons. They dress up the mount for various Chicago sports teams with a XXXXXL jersey during the different sports seasons (I don't know the actual size but apparently it's big). 

2018 photo of the Brachiosaurus donning a Cubs Jersey. Image courtesy of CBS Chicago

However, while I was leaving Chicago, I traveled United Airlines through O'Hare airport and I noticed another Brachiosaurus mount within the airport.

Brachiosaurus mount in O'Hare Airport

Brachiosaurus mount in O'Hare Airport

And it wasn't until looking at the photos for this post that I realized that the mounts were practically identical. Turns out, they are the same mount. 

The original Brachiosaurus specimen was discovered in 1900 by the Field Museum's first paleontologist, Elmer Riggs. The original skeleton was discovered in the Late Jurassic (~150 million years ago) Morrison Formation from western Colorado near Grand Junction. In total, the skeleton was discovered to have been 20% complete. Eventually, a mount of the skeleton was made using fiberglass replicas of the original Brachiosaurus altithorax holotype material, a couple of other Brachiosaurus specimens found later, and Giraffatitan brancai material (a closely related specimen from Tanzania). 

In 1993, the mount was set up within the Stanley Field Hall at the museum, but then was moved out to its current location within O'Hare airport in 1997. The mount was then recreated using plastic bones and a steel frame, all-weather materials, in 1999 to be placed on the western terrace of the museum, where it can be seen today. 

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