I have held off talking about this museum for a while now, as it has been nearly 15 years since I’ve been there last, and not only have I forgotten a great deal of it but also it has undergone extensive renovation in 2008. Canada, like the USA, is rich in dinosaur fossil material, and sort of acts like Mongolia to China in terms of fossils-the hotbed of Cretaceous rock. British Colombia brought us the Cambrian explosion in the Burgess Shale, but for dinosaurs, Alberta and Saskatchewan are the real treasure trove. There’s really nothing like them outside of Montana and Wyoming to the south and Mongolia across the Pacific. Lambe, Brown, and the Sternbergs found a gold mine of Cretaceous fossils, one that is still being excavated today.
Like the southern American West, while a lot of fossils are stored and studied nearby (in this case, the Royal Tyrell Museum in Drumheller near Edmonton), a great deal have made it to the East. While the US fossils were shipped to Chicago, Pittsburg, Washington, New Haven, Philadelphia and Washington DC, the Canadian fossils were sent to Toronto and Ottawa. The National Canadian Museum of Nature will be covered next in the series, but today we’re looking at the Royal Ontario Museum.
The museum is an amazing colossus, with a futuristic, geometric crystal built around a neo-gothic core. There are no less than 3 full levels, and it will take two days to see the whole thing. I spent 6 hours alone and wound up skipping a few of the less interesting exhibits. It’s second only to the American Museum in New York in terms of sheer size and scope. Archaeology, history, anthropology, paleontology, art and ecology share the spaces, from 20th century Canada back to the Triassic, from the First Nations of British Colombia to Edo Japan to Old Kingdom Egypt to the Golden Age of France.
Fortunately, I chose to make a paleontology blog instead of history or anthropology (for now), so I’ll focus on the two galleries on the second floor.
On the main floor there is a mount, however, much like the American’s Barosaurus or Field’s Tyrannosaurus. In this case, it’s of the giant Cretaceous titanosaur Futalongkosaurus. The holotype is an incomplete specimen in the Museo Ernesto Bachmann in El Chocon, Argentina, so this is a cast, using other titanosaur bones to reconstruct it. In a unique touch, all the fossils here are identified as cast, fossil, or composite, showing which are which by the display card.
The sauropod dominates the Hyacinth Gloria Chen Court and can be seen from the ticket booths, but it’s not the only dinosaur. Behind it is the Samuel Hall Currelly Gallery, linking the exhibits on the main floor. There, two more full mounts are on display, articulated but still “in situ” context, of Sternberg’s Prosaurolophus and Edmontosaurus. They’re impressive but they are only appetizers, tempting visitors with promises of more.
On the second floor, the best way of reaching the fossils is the Stair of Wonders to the Southwest. On the way, you should appreciate the mounts of tropical birds, modern dinosaurs. Coming in from the stairwell, be sure to look left. You’ll be looking straight at the giant beak of a mount of Quetzalcoatlus. While Austin and Pittsburg also have spectacular Quetzalcoatlus mounts, this one is the most impressive; it flies in from the main court, peering in at the visitors menacingly.
The way to view this gallery is a clockwise circle. First, you should start with the gallery of icthyosaurs, two dimensional but still spectacular, including a giant Eurhinosaurus and a pregnant
Trinacromerum¸and a two dimensional Hydrotherosaurus. Below them are skulls of Tylosaurus and Platecarpus (the last with an ammonite in its mouth, a specimen with mosasaur toothmarks and punctures in its shell)
Finally, there are the Ceratopsians and the last theropods. Small display cases describe the ROM’s discovery of the pachycephalosaur Acrotholus and dromeosaur Acheroraptor. The horned dinosaurs, contemporaries of Gorgosaurus and the last space’s hadrosaurs, are represented by skulls of Arrhinoceratops, Anchiceratops, Centrosaurus and full mounts of Protceratops and Chasmosaurus. Another case has the domes of Stegoceras, Pachycephalosaurus, Stygimoloch, and Colepiocephale. Behind them is a Pachycephalosaurus mount and a wall display of birdlike dinosaurs, replicas of the Liaoning feathered dinosaurs, a mounted cast of Bambiraptor and a very inaccurate model of Microcraptor and a realistic model of . Of course, the real stars of the display are the centerpiece. A mounted cast of Tyrannosaurus looms over the other dinosaurs, while replica skulls of Tyrannosaurus, Triceratops and Nanotyrannus
The transition to mammals is abrupt-you can just turn around from Tyrannosaurus to Hyracotherium. A Teleoceras is elevated over the Palaeogene gallery-including skulls of Barylambda, Hemipsalodon, Megacerops (several specimens), Uintatherium, early equids, full mounts of Dinictis, Menoceras, and Hyaenodon,. The highlights are the mount of the bizarre amphibious mammal Desmostylus and the three Menoceras in different poses, a piece of their legendary bonebed below them.
Laurillard's ground sloth