The American Museum of Natural History has a new occupant — one so big it has a room of its own, which can hardly contain it.
We like big and we like to have it all.
The American Museum of Natural History's newest resident is on display today — a 122-foot-long titanosaur, discovered in 2014 in Argentina, one of the largest dinosaurs ever found and the biggest the museum has ever displayed.
Scientists estimate that it weighed about 70 tons when alive. Its ribcage is the size of an Access-a-Ride, and head to tail the skeleton stretches a city block — a long one.
There is something awe inspiring in the heft of the bones, the dramatic play of the lights.
But it's not real . . . not even the bones.
No wool is being pulled over an unsuspecting public's eyes.
The skeleton on display is a replica, constructed of lightweight fiberglass 3-D prints. Everything was recreated to the specifications of the bones found in the Patagonian desert — 84 of which were recovered, approximately 75 percent of the total skeleton. This is the world premiere of the cast, which could be replicated and put on display elsewhere.
Fossils of this size would be far too heavy to display — in this case one of the larger bones might be 1,200 pounds, vs. the 100-pound cast, according to Peter May, president of Research Casting International, the firm that built the model.
Michael Novacek, provost of science and curator for the paleontology division at the museum, says that 80 to 90 percent of the museum's collection are original bones. In the fourth-floor dinosaur exhibits, "most that you see are original," he says, including the famous Tyrannosaurus rex.
But the titanosaur is so big that it would have to be displayed as a cast, or simply as a collection of bones. Which would hardly be our picture of a dinosaur at all.