Last week I went up to Fort Hays State University in Hays, Kansas, where I will be completing my geology credentials. While the trip was mainly for orientation and signing up for my classes, I did get a chance to see some of the cool paleontology stuff they have there.
As I was led into the physical sciences building, one of the first things to greet me was this Allosaurus skeletal mount, complete with a Camarasaurus to munch on. One of the coolest things about it is that the tail reaches all the way to the second floor, requiring an opening in the floor to accommodate it, which also allows you to look down at it.
Once my business on campus was finished, I went over to the Sternberg Museum of Natural History, which is run by the university. One of the most famous specimens housed there is the “fish-within-a-fish” pictured here, a large Xiphactinus with a smaller Gillicus that it consumed shortly before its death. It’s thought that the Gillicus may have been responsible for the larger fish’s death, possibly due to some injury inflicted as it went down.
The paleontology exhibits at the Sternberg Museum are mainly focused on the fossils of Kansas, an obvious choice given its location. What’s especially cool is the fact that Pteranodon (pictured above) and Tylosaurus, the two state fossils of Kansas, are specially labelled as such. Clearly the museum takes pride in being a repository of its state’s rich fossil history, and I don’t blame them.
In addition to all the Kansas fossils, there was a really nice temporary exhibit on Archaeopteryx. In addition to the casts of most known Archaeopteryx specimens, there was a bunch of art depicting the iconic animal on display. These included work by some well known paleoartists, including Julius Csotonyi, Mark Hallett, Luis Rey, and William Stout, among others. The gift shop was even selling prints, and I bought one of a Stout piece I especially liked.
Another cool temporary exhibit was one devoted entirely to rattlesnakes. Live specimens of every rattlesnake species native to the United States was on display (the picture above is of a prairie rattler). It was a great opportunity to appreciate a species that is too often viewed as a monster.
Another notable feature of the museum is its life-sized, walkthrough diorama of the Late Cretaceous period. It looks to be a little old, and some parts seem to be a tad outdated, but the child in me couldn’t help but enjoy it.
Overall, the Sternberg Museum really exceeded my expectations. My one gripe would be that there is so much there that it can be overwhelming. However, since I’ll be living in Hays shortly, I’ll have plenty of chances to absorb everything it has to offer. If you’re ever in the area, I implore you to check it our. Believe me, this post does not do it justice.