Welcome to the Dinosaur Discovery Museum, the best museum focused solely on the transition from extinct meat-eating dinosaurs to modern birds. The museum was created by Dr. Thomas Carr, a professor of paleontology at Carthage University. It opened in 2006 and offers tours and educational programs overseen by Chris de Santis, the museum's curator of education. Before you begin your visit, please take a few minutes to watch a short film that provides an overview of what you will see in the gallery.
The dinosaurs in the gallery are cast from original fossils held in museum collections around the world. The casts are painted to match the color of the original bone, which is usually a light shade of brown. Black areas indicate missing bones that have been sculpted to fill in the gaps. As you explore the gallery, you will notice that the dinosaurs are posed in specific ways to represent their daily activities and possible behavioral similarities between extinct dinosaurs and modern birds.
For example, the novel Saurius is shown in an eating pose, ripping flesh from its prey. This is similar to how eagles or hawks would eat. An Allosaurus is posed in a resting position, with its arms tucked back and resting on its chest, similar to how a large bird would rest.
The gallery also features a Sinosauropteryx, the first non-avian and non-flying dinosaur to have feathers. Feathers likely evolved for insulation rather than flight. The feathers on this Sinosauropteryx are preserved as a dark fringe around its body. There is also a panel mount of Archaeopteryx, with large feathers on its hands and tail, likely for display and sheltering eggs.
In the museum, you can see small pebbles and stones in the stomach of a cadet Oryx. Some dinosaurs, like modern birds, swallowed stones to help break up and digest food. This is an example of convergent evolution, where similar traits evolve independently in different groups.
As you explore further, you will find modern bird skeletons on display, inviting comparison with the dinosaurs. The museum is also home to the lab for the Carthage College Institute for Paleontology, where students participate in excavations and bring back fossils for study. The museum displays trace the evolutionary path over millions of years, showcasing one of the most complete transitions from the fossil record.
We hope this film has provided you with an understanding of the key features and unique experience the Dinosaur Discovery Museum offers. We invite you to explore the museum fully and visit as often as you like.