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Terror of the South
The North Carolina MNS announced yesterday the plans for the new
display of their _Acrocanthosaurus_. The article in the Raleigh News-
Observer (with illustration) is at:
but also below.
Terror of South to stalk Jones Street
<Picture>Illustration courtesy of the North Carolina Museum Of
Natural Sciences. Next fall, visitors to the N.C. Museum of Natural
Sciences will meet Acro, the only fossil of its kind on display in the
world. The dinosaur is poised to kill a sauropod.
By JANE RUFFIN, Staff Writer
RALEIGH -- For more than 100 million years, the Acrocanthosaurus
lay hidden beneath the rocks of southeastern Oklahoma, its skull
compressed by the sediment, its bones blackened by the ages.
But next fall, like an ancient superstar returning to the limelight, Acro
will rise over downtown, lunging ferociously and letting out a roar. Restored
and reassembled, the 40-foot dinosaur skeleton will stand beneath the
glass-enclosed dome of a tower that forms the focal point of the new $60
million North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.
In the world of paleontology, Acro is a celebrity, and the museum
on Monday announced plans for a setting that befits its status as the only
such skeleton on display in the world.
Passers-by on Jones Street will be able to see Acro poised to attack
its prey, a model of a larger, but slower-moving, sauropod. To enhance the
drama, the exhibit will be lighted at night.
Museum officials make no bones about how much they hope that in
this setting, the dinosaur nicknamed the "Terror of the South" will lure
visitors and become a downtown landmark.
"It's an extremely rare specimen," said Director of Exhibits Roy
Campbell. "We needed to come up with something that was equal to
that stature. We're placing it in the most distinctive part of the structure,
where everyone will know that this is the home of the Terror of the South."
The tower originally was to be the home of hummingbirds and
butterflies in a tropical conservatory. But that peaceful oasis was booted
to another floor after the museum acquired Acro last year with $3 million
from anonymous private donors.
The Acro exhibit, costing $1.5 million, also will replicate two sets of
110 million-year-old dinosaur tracks discovered 40 years ago in Texas.
One set, believed to be from an Acrocanthosaurus that weighed two or
three tons, ran parallel to the trail of a larger herbivore that may have been
traveling in a herd. Some scientists speculate that a skipping stride by
the Acro represented the moment it attacked its larger prey.
To make the scene more vivid, the museum plans special effects,
simulating the sound of the animals' feet hitting the ground, thunder and
lightning and the "roar" of Acro.
That the animal made such a noise "is a very reasonable assumption,"
said Vince Schneider, the museum's curator of paleontology. "There aren't
too many silent animals."
But because no one has actually heard a dinosaur roar, he said, the
museum is playing off the sound of today's large carnivores: lions and
All of which is sure to be a hit with schoolchildren and with visitors
looking for something more exotic than Raleigh's giant acorn and its art
tower. It also could be fodder for jokes about Jones Street predators; the
tower is directly across the street from the Legislative Building.
If Raleigh becomes known as the city with the dinosaur, that would
suit the museum just fine.
"What we are building right now with the museum is a world-class
facility," said Campbell, who pointed out that the museum, the largest
natural history museum in the Southeast, will range far beyond dinosaurs.
"We certainly want everyone from North Carolina to see this museum, but
we want to attract people from around the world who are going to take
For all the high-minded motivation, the museum is playing up the
horror-movie aspect of the Acro exhibit. A news release notes that the
"fearsome" dinosaur had a series of large spines atop its back, hips
and tail, that its jaw "contained 68 thin, knife-like teeth" and that its
"powerful arms ended in three wickedly curved, scimitar-like claws."
"This was a very robust creature that hunted like a tiger," Campbell
said. "We wanted people to know this was a very agile and active
An encounter with the claw of another Acrocanthosaurus may have
been what left a hole in the shoulder blade of the museum's Acro. That
injury, and numerous others, have become apparent as scientists at
the Black Hills Institute of Geological Research in South Dakota worked
to restore the skeleton, which two amateur rockhounds discovered in
Oklahoma in 1983.
The Institute, a private, for-profit operation, has repaired and restored
most of the skeleton. It is still working on the skull, which was
compressed to just six inches in width, using special tools to remove
rocks and other material around bones that have fused together.
The largest missing parts of the skeleton are its body and neck
vertebrae, said Neal Larson, vice president of the Institute. It has most
of its tail, a complete hind leg, rib cage and pelvis, as well as the skull
and teeth. The missing bones will be replaced by models made of
putty, plastic and epoxy.
The Institute will truck the dinosaur bones to Raleigh and assemble
them here in time for the museum's opening. Museum officials have not
specified the date beyond saying it will be in the fall.
"This dinosaur is going to be the star of this museum," Larson
said. "The dinosaur should be there and used to advertise and used
to draw people in. A big problem that museums have is that they don't
tell people what they have inside, and I think it's great that this museum
is going to draw people in. And I think it will work wonderfully."