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From: Ben Creisler firstname.lastname@example.org
In case this news story has not been mentioned. I left the phonetic
rendering "Apadasaurus excelcius" as-is in the text.
Supersaurus- Trexler, crew build giant replica
By Acantha staff
With more than 250 pieces, a life-size skeletal replica of Supersaurus
vivianae, one of the largest sauropod dinosaurs known, is on its way this
month from Bynum to Wyoming to Japan.
Bynum paleontologist Dave Trexler of the Two Medicine Dinosaur Research
Center and a crew of helpers have been working for months now to complete a
reconstruction of the second known specimen of Supersaurus vivianae,
discovered several years ago near Douglas, Wyo.
The Supersaurus, a browsing plant-eater, lived in the Jurassic Period, 140
million to 150 million years ago. Researchers recovered about 15 percent of
the fossilized remains of this specimen, Trexler said during a recent
interview. "The 15 percent is scattered pieces throughout the skeleton ...
so it makes it easy to interpret what should have been in between the
pieces that are there," he said.
The Wyoming Dinosaur Center at Thermopolis subcontracted with Trexler to
build the replica for an exhibition company that will use the Supersaurus
as the featured exhibit in a show dedicated to the sauropod. "It's the
newest specimen for which there is a model," Trexler said.
Trexler said the show organizer expects 10 million people to visit the
exhibit in the 57 days that it will be open in July and August. The
organizer has put on more than half a dozen other specialty dinosaur
exhibits, he said. The original bones recovered in Wyoming will be on
exhibit along with the skeletal replica that Trexler has created. A
Camarosaur that Trexler created for the Wyoming Dinosaur Center will also
be on display in the show.
The Wyoming Dinosaur Center, founded in 1995, has more than 200 displays,
that include 20 full-size mounted skeletons, of which 10 are dinosaur
replicas, according to the Center's Web site.
Trexler has a well-established relationship with the Wyoming Dinosaur
Center, where he worked for several years as the curator of paleontology,
commuting in a kit plane from Bynum to Wyoming numerous times.
He has built several replicas for the Wyoming Dinosaur Center and, working
with others in Bynum, created a life-size skeletal replica of Seismosaurus,
the "earth shaker." "I have now produced more large sauropod mounts than
anyone else working in the field," Trexler said.
Trexler said he started the project about a year ago with help from his
wife, Laurie Trexler, and from family members including his father-in-law
John Brandvold, his daughter Dawn Carlson and his son Alan Trexler.
Dave Lovelace, the director of the Bighorn Basin Foundation, the nonprofit
wing of the Wyoming Dinosaur Center, and Damien Beatty, a Wyoming Dinosaur
Center crew member, have also been working on the project as has Ken
Kucher, a former chief paleontology technician at the Royal Tyrrell Museum
of Paleontology at Drumheller, Alta., who now runs a company called
Reprodactyl Inc., based in Seattle, Wash.
Trexler said the dinosaur project has generated a mini-economic boon.
Visiting crew members have stayed in motels and apartments in Choteau
throughout the project and have been frequent diners at local restaurants.
Trexler said this project has melded his previous training as a mechanic
with his paleotological background as he fashioned the metal framework on
which the foam-carved "bones" are mounted in a stationary position.
"As far as I know, I'm the only paleontologist who does his own welding and
fabrication for the mount," he said, noting that this frame was less
complicated mechanically than the Seismosaurus frame which provided every
bone with a full range of motion.
Trexler describes Supersaurus vivianae as an "overgrown, slimmed-down
version of Apadasaurus excelcius."
"The unusual feature of this animal is that it actually has a much longer
neck than we would have expected," Trexler says. The neck on this animal -
nearly 40 feet long - is one of only three known in the world at this
length, he said, adding, "We were blessed with three-quarters of the neck
vertebrae, so very little of the neck length is guesswork."
The length of this neck poses a scientific controversy in the paleontology
community, Trexler said, adding that, from a bio-mechanical standpoint,
there appears to be no good reason for such a long neck. This length, he
said, almost makes it impossible for the animal to breathe, to swallow and
to pump blood to the head. Trexler said the Supersaurus vivianae might have
had to swallow three to four times to get food from its mouth to its
stomach. Scientists believe these dinosaurs had a gizzard and a craw, as
modern birds do, to aid in digestion.
This animal probably did very little in life except strip leaves off trees
and swallow them, he said. Supersauri probably didn't chew as their teeth
were located in the front of their mouths for stripping, not in the back of
their mouths for grinding. "The closest thing we could compare it to today
is an overgrown ostrich," he said.
The life-size replica will be between 105 and 110 feet long and, at its
hips, about 17.5 feet tall. The finished mount will have the head 20 feet
in the air. Trexler estimates the weight of the living animal at about 30
tons, making it one of the heaviest animals to ever walk the earth.
Each of the more than 250 bones is sculpted out of rigid foam and then
covered with a surface coating of epoxy. It was scheduled to be shipped to
Wyoming by the end of March. There, crew members will do last-minute
touch-ups and finishing, and then it will be packed into crates to be
shipped to Japan.
Trexler is writing an instruction manual for the exhibit organizers to use
in reassembling the mount. "The nicest part of all of this is that they
sent a couple of their crew up here to work with us for the last month,"
Trexler said, so these workers will know how to assemble it in Wyoming and
to reassemble it in Japan.
Trexler and his crew faced a crunch time in March. His original contract
called for the replica to be completed by May 1, but then the exhibit
company jumped the deadline up to April 1 and they had to work 10- to
12-hour days to get the work done.
Trexler is now looking forward to the summer season at the Two Medicine
Dinosaur Center in Bynum. The center will continue to offer paleontological
classes and experiences for visitors and will work on original dinosaur
research. The facility is a member of the Montana Dinosaur Trail and is
second only to the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman for housing
one-of-a-kind specimens, Trexler said.
One of this summer's research projects will involve comparing differences
between fossils from the Two Medicine and Judith River formations. One of
the researchers at the Two Medicine Dinosaur Center is examining this issue
for a doctoral thesis, he said.
The Two Medicine Dinosaur Center has also been offering technical support
to a Harlowton museum, to the Old Trail Museum in Choteau, the Blaine
County Museum in Chinook and the H. Earl Clack Museum in Havre.
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