A new exhibit opens to the public Saturday at the natural history museum at Amherst College. It is one of only two skeletons of a particular dinosaur species on display in the world.
The Dryosaurus altus was one of the smaller dinosaurs that roamed the earth 150 million years ago, but it is a big presence now at the Beneski Museum of Natural History at Amherst College. This specific skeleton is one of the most complete and best preserved of its species, according to museum director Tekla Harms.
The dinosaur skeleton was donated by Amherst College alumnus John Middleton, who purchased it at a auction from the excavation company that had unearthed it in Wyoming.
The college declined to reveal the auction price. The only other free-standing Dryosaurus skeleton is on display at the Carnegie Museum.
The Dryosaurus was an agile and speedy herbivore. It was about three feet tall and 10 feet long. It moved about on two legs, and could run as fast as 40 miles an hour. Harms made the decision to display it on the ground floor of the museum next to the fossil limb bones of the much larger four legged Diplodocus dinosaur, which was also a plant- eating animal that lived in the same region and same time period as the Dryosaurus.
The Dryosaurus skeleton has about 300 pieces and is about 44 percent intact. It took three months to clean the fossils and reassemble the pieces according to Matt Fair of Research Casting International, a Canadian company that provides technical services to museums around the world.
The skull of the Dryosaurus is intact, but Fair said it is too fragile to be mounted on the skeleton. The skull is being studied by paleontologists in Toronto and will eventually go on display inside a Plexiglas box.