The Houston Museum of Natural Science has a new Hall of Paleontology, and everybody's talking about it. All of the accolades are more than warranted: The $85 million wing spans 30,000 square feet, and it is filled with more than 60 mounts and 3.5 billion years of history. It's interactive and awe-inspiring.
The Paleo Hall, which opened to members last week, will be unveiled to the general public Saturday at 10 a.m., following a ribbon cutting ceremony with Mayor Annise Parker.
The exhibition flows clockwise, starting the Precambrian period and moving into the Cambrian period, where large Trilobites (pictured) are on display.
A model of Wet Willi, a Dimetrodon giganhomogenes, greets visitors to the pre-Dinosaur Era section. Willi is the most complete Dimetrodon specimen ever found.
The "Land Croc," or Postosuchus, on the left was found in Post, Tex., by Dr. Sankar Chetterjee. It's attacking a formidable-looking Spike-Shouldered Herbivore, or Desmatosuchus — an advanced crocodile relative.
Throughout the exhibit hall, murals by Julius Csotonyi depict realistic renderings of the mounts. Here, a Smilosuchus attacks a Placerias, an advanced early mammal ancestor.
The Plesiosaurus dolichodeirus, discovered by Mary Anning in 1823, swam like a modern-day penguin — but with two pairs of powerful wings.
And now, the really good part.
The Paula and Rusty Walter Mesozoic Gallery is the dinosaur-lovers dream, filled with dozens of Late Jurassic dinosaur mounts. Do Stegosaurus, Diplodocus, Gorgosaurus and Hadrosaurus ring a bell?
Lane the Triceratops changed the way that paleontologists thought about the species. As an added bonus, the mount is accompanied by a display of 3-D fossil skin, with the skin tissue petrified.
Stan, the resident Tyrannosaurus rex, is the most well-known mount in the hall. Most T. rex casts in other paleontology exhibits around the world are based on the same cast.
Wyrex, a new edition to the hall, has the most well-preserved hands of any T. rex ever found. The mount is impressively complete, though Wyrex lost a segment of his tail during life — an injury that likely resulted in his death.
A sea turtle, seen from below.
The John P. and Katherine McGovern Jurassic Bark Gallery houses petrified wood from the Joan R. and Herbert A. Zuhl collection. The gigantic slabs are streaked with vibrant colors.
Imagine a modern-day shark attacking a modern-day elephant. That's what's happening here: A Megalodon (this one had many of its teeth intact) could swallow a Platybelodon whole.
Check out the big claws on Syd, the ground sloth. The species, which came over from South America, are now found in abundance in North America.
Priscilla is the largest mastodon ever found. This segment of the exhibition marks the emergence of human beings into history.