A new dinosaur headed this way

A look at the Stegosaurus that will soon be at the Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville.


MARTINSVILLE — The full size cast skeleton is currently 292 miles away, ready to be shipped. It’s fairly large, standing more than 8 feet tall. And in a few months, the body of this Stegosaurus will find its way to Martinsville.

"Stegosaurus is such an iconic, recognizable dinosaur and we are extremely happy to be able to permanently display it for visitors in the near future," said Ryan Barber, deputy director of the Virginia Museum of Natural History. "This Stegosaurus is over 8 feet tall and 17 feet long, making it a formidable presence when it is displayed in our Harvest Foundation Hall of Ancient Life."

The skeleton has a bit of history behind it, arriving at the Smithsonian in 1917. At that time, it was only the second full size Stegosaurus on display anywhere in the world. It was a cast mold, made from the original bones. Understandably, the original bones aren’t on display, due to their age. In 2003, it came to light that the original casting effort made a few mistakes, when it came to the creature’s structure, so it was recast.

"As more scientific evidence has been discovered over the past 100 years, our knowledge of what Stegosaurus truly looked like has greatly evolved," said Barber. "Most notably, the tail and posture of this Stegosaurus has been re-casted to properly depict what this dinosaur truly was like millions of years ago."

Living around 150 million years ago, the name "Stegosaurus" means "roofed lizard". At its prime, the Stegosaurus was 30 feet long and weighed around five tons. However, despite its size, the dinosaur had a relatively small brain, around the size of a dog’s. Interestingly enough, the Stegosaurus is the official state dinosaur for Colorado, one of eight states to have a dino designation. Virginia doesn’t have a state dinosaur. That doesn’t dilute any of the excitement museum staffers feel about bringing in the creature.

"We are very grateful to the Smithsonian for offering such a fantastic specimen," Barber said. "Stegosaurus will serve as a phenomenal addition to the museum’s dinosaur exhibits and it will be one of many highlights during the upcoming Dino Days festival."

Dino Days is a two-day event planned for next summer, specifically for July 21, 2017. As it will take some time to transport the Stegosaurus and then a bit more to set up the exhibit, museum officials decided to make that event the creature’s public debut.

While museum goers have a while to wait for the dinosaur’s official opening, Barber said it was important for the museum to let the public know what’s in the future. The reason is that he and other museum officials hope to let the Martinsville community be a part of the journey to the public display. Museum scientists and technicians will spend the next year making further preparations to the display before Stegosaurus makes its public debut.

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