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ADVENTURE ROADMAP!

Giant beasts roam the halls of Cincinnati Museum Center. From massive plant-eating sauropods to fierce two-legged predators, Dinosaur Hall features awe-inspiring specimens you won’t find anywhere else. Six prehistoric beasts, many at the center of ongoing scientific research, help us explore dinosaur evolution, ecology and biology.​

WHO STUDIES FOSSILS?

Meet paleontologists and get to know their work.

HOW DO FOSSILS HAPPEN?

Examine the process of fossilization.

FOSSILS IN THE BIGGER PICTURE

Investigate what fossils can tell us about change over time on Earth.

JURASSIC ENVIRONMENT

Explore the climate, plants, animals and geography of 150 million years ago.

OUR DINOSAURS

Meet the dinosaurs in CMC's Dinosaur Hall.

FOSSILS NEAR YOU

Discover fossils you might find where you live.

MEET THE EXPERTS!

Meet the experts from Cincinnati Museum Center that will be guiding your virtual adventure!

Associate Vice President for Science and Research

Glenn W. Storrs, Ph.D.

Curator of Invertebrate Paleontology

Brenda Hunda, Ph.D.

Paleontology Collections Manager

Cameron Schwalbach

Learning Specialist

Lindsay Dalpiaz

Who Studies Fossils?

Fossils are evidence of past life, the preserved remains or impressions of prehistoric organisms

Scientists called paleontologists analyze and decode fossils. Let’s investigate who does this sort of work, what kinds of tools they use and where they work. Meet CMC paleontologists and learn about their work.

Image: Cincinnati Museum Center Summer 2003 Field School. Montana, USA.

What are Paleontologists?

Paleontologists study the history of life on Earth by examining fossils. They examine changes in animals, plants and habitats over long periods of time. ​

Explore what it takes for paleontologists to recover fossils from the field, process them in a lab, and so much more!

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What are paleontologists and how do they use fossils?

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See where the fossils on display in CMC's Dinosaur Hall were recovered

A Paleontologist's Toolkit

Collecting fossils requires equipment ranging from bulldozers to toothbrushes. To protect fragile specimens, paleontologists often extract them in a block of surrounding rock, called matrix. Wrapping fossils in layers of tissue, then strips of plaster-soaked burlap, creates a protective layer called a field jacket. This process helps keep fossils safe as they travel to labs for preparation and study.

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Interviews with Our Paleontologists ​

CMC paleontologists work here at Union Terminal and in our Geier Collections & Research Center. Let's meet them!

Associate Vice President for Science and Research

Glenn W. Storrs, Ph.D.

Curator of Invertebrate Paleontology

Brenda Hunda, Ph.D.

Paleontology Collections Manager

Cameron Schwalbach

How did you become interested in paleontology?

What is a typical day like for you?

What is the most surprising thing about your job?

What is the coolest thing you've found?

With whom do you collaborate?

What is your favorite dinosaur?

How Do Fossils Happen?

Fossilization is the process through which plants, animals and other organic remains and traces are preserved.

Fossils may contain organic material - they're not always just rock! Not all living things become fossils, and certain environments increase an organism's chance of fossilization.

Cincinnati Museum Center Summer 2003 Field School. Montana, USA.

What is a Fossil?

Fossils are evidence of past life. They are the preserved remains or impressions of prehistoric organisms.​

Explore what it takes for paleontologists to recover fossils from the field, process them in a lab, and so much more!

Hover cursor over fossil images for larger view.

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Explore behind the scenes with John Day at Fossil Beds National Monument. Courtesy of the National Park Service.

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Tenontosaurus is a type of medium-sized herbivorous ornithopod dinosaur from the Early Cretaceous Period. While this specimen looks like a grasping hand, it is actually a foot.

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Ammonites, a type of cephalopod, were formidable predators that could swim through the ocean with jet propulsion and use their hard beaks to crush the shells of their prey.

Types of Fossils

Trace Fossils

Trace fossils are evidence of past living things’ behaviors. Trace fossils show how animals lived, how they moved, what they ate, and how they bred. Footprints, egg nests, and coprolites (fossilized poop) are examples of trace fossils.

Body Fossils

Body fossils form from the remains of dead plants and animals. Most body fossils are made of hard material such as teeth, bones, and shells.

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Best Chance for Becoming a Fossil

Some environments are better for fossilization than others. Cause of death, proximity to water and rate of burial can affect whether something is carried away, eaten or fossilized. ​

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Learn more about the process of fossilization and see a rare soft tissue fossil

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Join CMC's Youth Programs to dive deeper into the question "Who Becomes a Fossil?"

Fossils in the Bigger Picture

Earth is changing all the time. Land masses change physically, and so does the environment. Living things change by going extinct or evolving. Fossils can provide us with some answers (and more questions) about the past. ​

Image Courtesy of Magda Ehlers from Pexels.

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Trilobites are extinct arthropods most closely related to horseshoe crabs. They were one of the first sighted animals.

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The large skull of Triceratops had a large frill and 3 prominent horns – 2 massive horns above its its and a smaller one on its snout.

Earth Over Time

Tectonic plates are massive slabs of rock that form the continents and the ocean floor. They occur in many shapes and sizes.

Shifting Plates

This is what Earth looked like 150 million years ago. The supercontinent Pangea was splitting apart as the Atlantic Ocean widened.

Image: Paleogeographic reconstruction of Earth 150 million years ago (© Ron Blakey, Deep Time Maps™)

Click on the image below to launch Deep Time Globe Interactive

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K-Pg Boundary

The K-Pg Boundary extinction happened at the end of the Cretaceous Period and the beginning of the Paleogene, 66 million years ago. Approximately 75% of the species went extinct. The K-Pg boundary rock is evidence that dinosaurs may have died from something hitting Earth from space.​

Image Courtesy of TheusiNo from Pixabay

Jurassic Environment

Most fossils in this gallery are from the Jurassic Period (approx. 200–145 million years ago), with a focus on the Morrison Formation, a paleoecosystem in what is now the American West. The diversity of life — including dinosaurs, fish, turtles, insects, plants and the earliest mammals and birds — makes it an exciting period to study.​

Rocks, soils, fossils and chemical analyses provide scientists with a clear picture of what the Late Jurassic Morrison Formation environment looked like.

The fossil record shows how animals change over millions of years. Although some of these fossils look like living organisms, these animals are all extinct. What similarities and differences do you notice with animals living today?​

Image Courtesy of enriquelopezgarre from Pixabay

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Our Dinosaurs

CMC is home to six incredible mounted dinosaur specimens!

One of these animals took 18 years to uncover and restore. They show wide diversity: some are ferocious with sharp claws and teeth, while others are massive with peg-like teeth and tiny heads.

As you begin clicking through the next several pages, you will become familiar with CMC's incredible specimens on display.

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Do you know of any living dinosaurs?

Extinction was not the fate of all dinosaurs! Fossils show us that birds evolved from earlier theropod dinosaurs. The two groups share hundreds of features, including details of their skeleton structures, soft tissue, growth, reproduction, and behavior. This means that dinosaurs are not extinct, but they’ve existed on Earth for more than 230 million years! Birds are living dinosaurs. Maybe you have one in your own backyard...

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Click on the image below to launch Birds are Dinosaurs!

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Support from Craig and Anne Maier made this experience possible.

Why Aren't Pterosaurs Dinosaurs?

Although pterosaurs lived at the same time as dinosaurs, they are not considered dinosaurs – why? Dinosaurs are broken into groups based on shared physical characteristics. In order to be a dinosaur, an animal’s legs need to be stacked directly beneath them, while pterosaurs legs stick out at an angle.​

Fossils Near You!

Cincinnati is home to world-class fossils, maybe even in your own backyard! These are fossils from the Ordovician period, 450 million years ago. During this time, Cincinnati was under a warm, shallow sea. ​

Image Courtesy of PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay

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Bryozoans are tiny organisms with hard skeletons, which attach together to form colonies of all shapes and sizes.

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Brachiopods were among the most abundant organisms on the ancient seafloor, and they still exist today.

THANK YOU FOR VISITING

Thank you for exploring Dinosaur Hall at Cincinnati Museum Center. To discover more, check out our other virtual field trips and a wide array of online resources, including our WonderZone videos and the Learning from Home section of our website, all found on www.cincymuseum.org. 

To explore CMC’s epic exhibits in-person, click the button below to purchase tickets! *Due to COVID-19, some exhibits may be closed. Please check www.cincymuseum.org prior to visiting for the most up-to-date list of open experiences.

To reserve other Virtual Field Trip experiences, click the button below to explore CMC’s current offerings! Remember to always check back, as we frequently add new experiences.

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