Alaska Dinosaur Exhibit Opens In Dallas Museum

Photo courtesy of the Perot Museum of Nature and Science.

An exhibit highlighting Alaska dinosaurs has recently opened at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas. Anthony Fiorillo is the curator of earth sciences at the museum. He spends a lot of time in Alaska during the summer months looking for clues to Alaska’s past animal inhabitants. He splits his time between Denali and the North Slope along the Colville River. Among the interesting discoveries was finding footprints in Denali of a therizinosaur, part of the theropod family which are meat eaters, but the therizinosaurs went in a different dietary direction.

“It’s generally thought that these dinosaurs actually became vegetarians, and that they were big pot bellied things on two feet with long claws on their hands and their dentition, whereas a theropod had a bunch of sharp pointy teeth, these teeth tended to be quite a bit blunter which is one of the reasons why people thing they may have eaten plants,” Fiorillo said.

He says the North Slope finds are bones or what he calls the sexy fossils. He says they’re spectacular.

“They tell us who was at the dance, and the footprints are actually preserving the behavior of how these animals lived their lives,” Fiorillo said. “And so basically the tracks in Denali tell us what the dance was all about.”

“And when we look at Denali we actually see quite a bit of detail that’s not preserved elsewhere in the state.”

Fiorillo says Denali is home to one of the world’s best records of fossil bird footprints. One area is the size of a football field and contains thousands of footprints of a wide variety of dinosaurs.

He says the tracks contain entire family groups, mom, dad and babies and most are so well preserved that the fossils have skin impressions.

The display of preserved tracks and other artifacts are now open to the public.

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Lori Townsend is the News Director for the Alaska Public Radio Network. She got her start in broadcasting at the age of 11 as the park announcer of the fast pitch baseball games in Deer Park, Wisconsin. She has worked in print and broadcast journalism for more than 24 years. She was the co-founder and former Editor of Northern Aspects, a magazine featuring northern Wisconsin writers and artists. She worked for 7 years at tribal station WOJB on the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibway Reservation in Wisconsin, first as an on-air programmer and special projects producer and eventually News Director. In 1997 she co-hosted a continuing Saturday afternoon public affairs talk program on station KSTP in St. Paul, Minnesota. Radio brought her to Alaska where she worked as a broadcast trainer for Native fellowship students at Koahnic Broadcasting. Following her work there, she helped co-found the non-profit broadcast company Native Voice Communications. NVC created the award-winning Independent Native News as well as producing many other documentaries and productions. Townsend was NVC’s technical trainer and assistant producer of INN. Through her freelance work, she has produced news and feature stories nationally and internationally for Independent Native News, National Native News, NPR , Pacifica, Monitor Radio, Radio Netherlands and AIROS. Her print work and interviews have been published in News from Indian Country, Yakama Nation Review and other publications. Ms. Townsend has also worked as a broadcast trainer for the Native American Journalist’s Association and with NPR’s Doug Mitchell and as a freelance editor. Townsend is the recipient of numerous awards for her work from the Alaska Press Club, the Native American Journalists Association and a gold and a silver reel award from the National Federation of Community Broadcasters. Townsend was the recipient of a Fellowship at the Metcalf Institute for Marine and Environmental Reporting in Rhode Island as well as a fellowship at the Knight Digital Media Center in Berkeley. She is an avid reader, a rabid gardener and counts water skiing, training horses, diving and a welding certification among her past and current interests. ltownsend (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  |  907.550.8452 | About Lori