Dinosaurs in Their Time

Apatosaurus louisae Archives

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In 1909, Earl Douglass of Carnegie Museum of Natural History excavated a line of beautifully preserved backbones. The bones belonged to a new species of dinosaur, named by then-Director William J. Holland. A year later an unknown skull is found near the dinosaur's location. Does it belong to Apatosaurus or not? The dig team ships it to the museum just in case.

In 1915 the dinosaur was mounted in Dinosaur Hall. Because of a hot debate over the identity of the skull, the body was left headless and remained that way for twenty years. Under pressure from outside paleontologists, another unidentified skull—which turned out to be that of Camarasaurus—was mounted onto the body of Apatosaurus in 1936. It would be another 43 years before Carnegie paleontologists John McIntosh and Dave Berman correctly identified the skull found in Carnegie Quarry back in 1910. This skull, finally restored to its rightful owner in 1979, is still the only known skull from an Apatosaurus. And now, the bones have been conserved and remounted in a more accurate and dynamic position in the renovated Dinosaurs in Their Time exhibition.

Get the inside scoop!

The remounting of Apatosaurus was just another step in this dinosaur's long and fascinating history at Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Walk through the Apatosaurus slide show with former PaleoLab preparator Yvonne Wilson as she explains each step of the process, starting with its discovery more than 100 years ago.

Preparator's Log
Images © Carnegie Museum of Natural History
Apatosaurus louisae
April 18–June 14, 2005
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Click "next" to begin the show!

Time-lapse Webcams

Click on linked dates or camera angles to view video in a new window.

base removedJune 14, 2005 (2.6 Mb .avi file, 32 seconds)
Last Day! The original mounting platform from 1915 is all that remains to be dismantled. Larry can be seen disappearing through an opening he uses to work under the platform (any loose change he finds is probably from his own pocket). Once it's moved the team will resume work on Diplodocus, positioning it in Apatosaurus' old location where the crane will be most effective. So, that's it for Apatosaurus until it comes back to be remounted in a year or two.

June 13, 2005 (4.4 Mb .avi file, 32 seconds)
Some last-minute preparation and the support cage is ready. This remaining part of the Apatosaurus weighs about 2,225 lbs, and the steel framework supporting it weighs over 1000 lbs. Despite all this weight, the powerful crane took mere seconds to swing the cage off of the platform—too fast for the Webcam to catch it!

June 7-10, 2005
Cam 2 (3.1 Mb .avi file, 23 seconds)
Cam 4 (3.8 Mb .avi file, 28 seconds)
Larry and Brian prepare the sacrum, the last bone in the pelvic girdle, for shipping. First they weld new steel supports to its original framework and then custom-fit it into a steel shipping cage. When all the preparation is complete, the team uses the crane to lift the cage and then cut the remaining supports connecting it to the base.

June 6-7, 2005 (3.2 Mb .avi file, 23 seconds)
Larry and Brian prepare to remove the pubis, a bone in the pelvic girdle, by wrapping it up and building a crate around it for support. With help from Paul and Bob they remove the bone on the following morning.

June 2, 2005 (2.8 Mb .avi file, 20 seconds)
The ischium (part of the pelvis) is removed.

June 1, 2005 (2.6 Mb .avi file, 18 seconds)
The working platform under the sacrum is extended. Yvonne and Norm separate the ilium and pubis. (The sacrum, ilium, pubis, and ischium are the bones that make up the pelvic girdle.)

May 31, 2005 (3.2 Mb .avi file, 23 seconds)
The right femur, weighing over 600 pounds, is removed.

May 26-27, 2005 (4.4 Mb .avi file, 32 seconds)
Four dorsal vertebrae and both the left and right tibia and fibula (lower leg bones) are removed. The team prepares for another day by filling bags with packing material, then remove the left femur (upper leg bone). The left femur is a cast, but the right femur is real. Carnegie Museum of Natural History has more real dinosaur bones on display than any museum in the world!

May 24-25, 2005
Cam 3, May 24 (2.7 Mb .avi file, 19 seconds)
Cam 4, May 24 (2.6 Mb .avi file, 18 seconds)
Cam 3, May 25 (7.2 Mb .avi file, 52 seconds)
The lifting cradle is used to remove the vertebrae. These fossil bones range from 175-250 lbs., and can't be safely moved by hand alone.

May 23, 2005
Cam 3 (1.8 Mb .avi file, 13 seconds)
Cam 4 (2.5 Mb .avi file, 18 seconds)
Fraley's team finishes building the large work platform that will make it easier and safer to move around while removing the heaviest fossil bones. They also start building the "lifting cradle," which will support the dorsal (back) vertebrae as they are lifted and placed in their shipping crates.

May 19-20 (2.3 Mb .avi file, 17 seconds)
May 18 (3.56 Mb .avi file, 26 seconds)
The remaining scapula is removed as well as both front legs (humerus and radius bones). Once these bones have been removed, the temporary support structure is no longer needed. Fraley's team dismantles the steel supports and begins building a platform for removing the huge backbones.

scapulaMay 17, 2005 (3.86 Mb .avi file, 29 seconds)
Using the crane for the first time, the 600-pound scapula (shoulder blade) is removed. The welding flashes you see were Fraley's team reinforcing the supporting framework so it wouldn't tip when the fossil bone was removed.

May 12-13, 2005
Clip 1 (1.6 Mb .avi file, 12 seconds)
Clip 2 (2.5 Mb .avi file, 19 seconds)
The feet and ribs of Apatosaurus are removed.

May 11, 2005
Side angle
(3.26 Mb .avi file, 24 seconds)
Rear angle (3.13 Mb .avi file, 23 seconds)
Powerful jacks were used to move Apatosaurus across the floor to line up with the crane. We used three 20-ton jacks to move 12,000 lbs of fossil and steel (Apatosaurus alone, without its neck or tail, weighs about 9,225 pounds). Amazingly, the process took only a few hours. Quite a sight!

May 9-10, 2005
Clip 1 (2.55 Mb .avi file, 19 seconds)
Clip 2 (2.88 Mb .avi file, 21 seconds)
Steel supports are welded to the base in preparation for moving Apatosaurus. The large screen is a welding shield. The blue flashes come from the welders, and the white flashes come from the steel cutters.

April 20-22, 2005 (2.9 Mb .avi file, 22 seconds)
A crane is erected to handle the weight of the heavier bones in our largest dinosaurs, Diplodocus and Apatosaurus.

April 18-29, 2005 (4.2 Mb .avi file, 31 seconds)
loses its head...and tail.

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