Dino-in-Residence

In case you wondered, National Geographic is a bit like a college campus. We have a cafeteria, a whole lot of knowledgeable folks milling around, and an ongoing series of events and lectures to keep us learning. And now, for a little while at least, we also have a mascot.

This past week National Geographic unveiled a 110-million-year-old dinosaur, which is currently in residence in our lobby. The 30-foot skeleton of the Nigersaurus taqueti, (which we at IT have dubbed Nigel) is the cause celébre of the new “Extreme Dinosaur: Africa’s Long-Necked Fern Mower” exhibit, which will be on display through March 18. It’s also an extension of the Extreme Dinosaur story in the December issue of National Geographic Magazine, which features an introductory essay by John Updike (you can read and hear a Q&A with Updike online).

“Nigel” was discovered by Explorer-in-Residence Paul Sereno in 1997. Most of its bones were collected from the Sahara region in Niger, and it’s known for having a distinctively different mouth (which reminds us a bit of a stapler). NG’s Insider reports:

“It had a broad, straight-edged muzzle with more than 50 columns of tiny teeth—500 altogether—lining the jaw. The construction of its mouth enabled the Nigersaurus to work close to the ground, mowing down mouthfuls of greenery.”

In his presentation at the unveiling, Sereno called Nigel and its peers the “cows of the Mesozoic.”

Another cool element in Nigel’s backstory is that Sereno teamed up with a group of Chicago-area high school students to help pull the exhibit together. Through an organization called Project Exploration, the students did fieldwork, visited fossil labs, and read through research studies to help supplement Sereno’s excavation. The students were on hand yesterday for the unveiling, and you can learn more about the project, and the delegates here.

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To learn more about Nigel’s anatomy and lifestyle visit the research report published by PLoS One, the online journal from the Public Library of Science. Or come down to the lobby and check out Nigel for yourself.

Photos: Above, Kate Baylor; Below, Mike Hettwer, Project Exploration

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