The Late Cretaceous

It was still early, the Museum hadn’t opened its doors yet. As I rounded the corner and entered the Dinosaur Trail I was greeted by a large, resting, red-brown creature sitting in front of a wall of boulders. It was a Parasaurolophus. I’m not sure of the behavior of a Parasaurolophus during the Late Cretaceous Period, but this one was and is rather docile. In fact, it’s the only dinosaur on our Dino Trail that we let the public touch. On a typical day one can see numerous kids climbing over all parts of this crested, herbaceous, duck-billed hadrosaur.


Further down the trail is a not-so-docile creature of the same geologic period, an Albertasaurus. Before there were T-rex chasing down and munching on the other contemporaneous inhabitants of the period, there were Albertasauruses.


Just across from the meat-eating predator above there was, and still is, a nodosaur, a bony-plated herbivore which many people, upon first seeing, think to be an Ankylosaurus. It is, however, an Edmontonia. Hmmm.


As I continued down the path I noticed a family group of small herbivores which had just run across the path, Leptoceratops. These are small dinosaurs with horned plates on their heads. The name Leptoceratops means “little-horned face.”

One of the adults, the female of the group, is pictured below.


Two juveniles are below as they hurry along, trying to keep up with mom.


What are these little-horned faces running from? Well, crashing through the woods behind them is a rather large sauropodian herbivore, knocking trees and brush down as it goes, occasionally stopping to munch on the leaves at the tops of the trees.


The Alamosaurus seems to glance down at me as I walk directly under its head across the trail.

Next, I see a pair of pachycephalosaurid dinosaurs squaring off with one another. These blue, boned-headed demons from the Styx, are Stygimolochs. I don’t know what their dispute is, but I’m glad I’m not in the middle of it.


Next, I spot another duck-billed dinosaur. Unlike the placid Parasaurolophus at the beginning of the trail, this hadrosaur is quite upset.


A glance to the right reveals the root of her anxiety, a Troodon. The little (about 3’tall), feathered dinosaur is after the Maisaura’s eggs, which she will defend with abandon. The name Maisaura means “good mother lizard.”


Unfortunately, just down the path from the Maisaura and the lone, stalking Troodon, I see two more Troodon on their way to help their kin rid the Maisaura of her eggs.


And finally, after I pass the fossil dig site where you can grab a shovel, and potentially, unearth a treasure trove of various marine fossils from 5 to 23 million year ago coastal plain North Carolina, a Styracosaurus stares out at me through the vegetation, the sun illuminating its watchful eye as I pass.


Soon, kids will be crowding down the path climbing on the back of the Parasaurolophus and staring in wonder at all of these and more dinosaurs on the trail. I better get back to my pre-opening duties.

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