Friday, June 20, 2014

National Museum of Nature and Science, Tokyo

The National Museum of Nature and Science in Tokyo is big. Not as big as the AMNH, but big enough to spend the better part of a day inside. And as I'd intended to visit the Ueno Zoo later on the same day, I did not have time to spend all the better part of my day at the museum, so it certainly seemed big to me. (The only other day left on my trip had been a Monday, on which both the zoo and museum are closed, so I couldn't afford to assign my intended destinations to different days.) As a result, I had to cut my museum trip shorter than I otherwise would have liked. Nonetheless, I spent enough time there to look at their paleontology halls and they were well worth it.

Dinosaurs have a dedicated hall to themselves on a different floor from the other fossil displays. The first exhibit compares the skeleton of a human with that of Bambiraptor. The sign to the left labels the homologous elements shared between them.

One thing especially nice to see at the museum: cladograms! They were rather common on the signage, including these big panels featuring various theropod taxa, from one of the earliest...

... to one of the most recent.

Bambiraptor also serves as the example used in the "how fossils are discovered and studied" display. The life restoration... could be better, but it's not the worst that I'm aware of.

In general, life restorations were not the strongest part of the hall, but there were mercifully few of them. The vast majority of focus was on fossils. Most of the other life restorations came in the form of animated models on display screens, like the one you can see to the left here. Many contained clips of paleontologists explaining information related to the displays. It was entertaining to see familiar faces accompanied by Japanese dubbing. More to the point though, this sign was of particular interest to me as it pertained to that maniraptoran trademark, the semilunate carpal!

Here are the skeletons to match (from left to right): an unnamed dromaeosaurid, Archaeopteryx, and a Ural owl (with taxidermy counterpart). Herrerasaurus is also partially visible to the left.

A nice hadrosaur collection was present. The skull to the right is an animatronic model showing the chewing motions of hadrosaurs.

The obligatory parasagittal stance display.

A rauisuchian-type pseudosuchian hanging out with the dinosaurs.

The skull of Carcharodontosaurus.

Up above (as it was attached to a mount), the skull of Tyrannosaurus.

In front of the Tyrannosaurus was an arctometatarsal display. You get two guesses to which paleontologist was on the adjacent display screen and the first guess doesn't count.

The ceratopsian skull gallery (from left to right): Styracosaurus, Pachyrhinosaurus, Anchiceratops, and Chasmosaurus.

A Pachycephalosaurus duo.

Stegosaurus with the tail of Euoplocephalus in the foreground. It struck me that the hand positions of many of the mounts all looked rather up to date.

The main fossil hall is (understandably) much bigger than the dinosaur hall. Most vertebrate groups (synapsids in particular) were well represented (aside from non-amniote tetrapods and terrestrial non-dinosaurian reptiles), while the invertebrate collection was also goodly sized. There was a nice display comparing secondarily aquatic amniote groups (with a mount of Llanocetus, a new sight for me) and a large section on human evolution. In spite of its size and breadth, it turns out that, through a combination of conscious (saving my camera battery so I could continue using it at the zoo) and unconscious (being awestruck by the displays) influence, I only took one (blurry) picture: the skull of Paraceratherium.

Continuing with the trend of rarely-seen stuffed animals in Japan, some plush Anomalocaris from the gift shop!

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