New Haven, CT - In 1923 the Flaming Cliffs of the Gobi Desert yielded one of the great finds of paleontology. Entombed in sun-baked sandstone was a collection of oval-shaped oddities: the first dinosaur eggs known to science. This 75-million-year-old find would be followed by others, providing a glimpse into the lives of these ancient creatures that no skeleton could.
In the century that followed, fossilized dinosaur eggs and nests have been recovered from sites around the world as have the bones of tiny hatchlings and even tinier embryos. These discoveries are providing the clues that allow scientists to unlock the mysteries of dinosaur reproductive and social behavior. Were dinosaurs social animals? Did they care for their young? What was life like for baby dinosaurs? Tiny Titans: Dinosaur Eggs and Babies, a multimedia, hands-on exhibition opening at the Peabody February 8 and running through August 30, 2014, answers these questions and many others.
In addition to the amazement of seeing and in some cases touching such unique fossils, visitors to Tiny Titans will appreciate their enormous scientific value. They will see life assemblages of baby dinosaurs frozen in time at the moment of their demise. One such fossil from China, “Early Ceratopsian Dinosaur Nursery—Fossil Life Assemblage,” shows a herd of 34 very young psittacosaurs, all about the same age, intertwined in a group with one adult. All the skulls are above the mass of bodies as they would have been in life.
Another highlight is the extremely rare embryonic skin preserved inside an egg, a scientific first. Fossils of embryos are among the rarest of dinosaur remains but the fossilization of soft tissue such as skin is even more so because it usually decays soon after death and burial. This rare glimpse into the past enables scientists to visualize the skin of the living animal.
A short film tells the story of the discovery of "Baby Louie," one of the first known articulated dinosaur embryos, meaning Louie’s fossilized bones are intact and lying in the same position as they would have been in life. A cast of Louie’s bones and a feathered reconstruction are on display.
Also featured are treasured eggs from “living dinosaurs,” such as the ostrich, emu, and hummingbird and an eggshell fragment from the extinct elephant bird Aepyornis (which laid the largest egg ever known, a cast of which is on display). It was at the Peabody that Curator and Yale Professor John Ostrom advanced his theory, now overwhelmingly accepted, that birds are the living descendants of small, meat-eating dinosaurs.
Over 150 fossil dinosaur eggs, including sauropods (long-necked dinosaurs), theropods (meat-eating dinosaurs) and ornithopods (duck-billed dinosaurs and their relatives), are on view as well as nests, embryos and young . Animated computer games, hands-on exploration stations and a fossil dig invite discovery. Exquisite paintings show interpretations of dinosaur family life and dinosaur nesting. Animated video presentations feature renowned dinosaur experts reporting some of the latest dinosaur research.
Rare and unusual specimens on display from the Peabody collections include a beautiful selection of modern bird eggs. From penguins and loons to emus and hummingbirds, they show a great diversity of shape, color, and size. A selection of nests shows that birds are truly among nature’s great architects. And live emus will be hatching—right in the exhibit! This portion of the exhibition was curated by Richard Prum, curator of vertebrate zoology at the Peabody and The William Robertson Coe Professor of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology at Yale.
The exhibition was developed by the Stone Company, Colorado, and augmented for the Peabody by its rare egg and nest collections. Support for Tiny Titans was provided by the 2013-2014 O.C. Marsh Fellows of the Yale Peabody Museum.