A very large, very old fossil is coming to The Glazer Children’s Museum in Tampa.
The museum is getting ready to show off this exciting exhibit — the largest triceratops fossil ever found. Called “Big John,” the enormous dinosaur skeleton is almost ready for its new digs at the museum.
Big John was named for the rancher who owned the land near where the triceratops skeleton was found. The rancher was repairing a fence along the boundary of the Grand River National Grassland in South Dakota when he noticed a weathered piece of bone sticking out of the ground. Federal law prohibits the collection of paleontological or cultural artifacts on public lands. So he reported it to the local authorities.
So Old, So Big
Unearthed in 2014, Big John is 26 feet long and 10 feet high, with a 6.6-foot-wide skull. It’s estimated to be 5–10 percent larger than any other known triceratops. Unsurprisingly, Big John set a Guinness record for the largest triceratops skeleton ever found.
And this fossil is very, very old! Triceratops roamed the planet more than 66 million years ago, during the Late Cretaceous period.
Filling In The Blanks
ZOIC PalaeoTech, a UK company, purchased the fossil in 2014 and began to remove rock from the bone. Then they sculpted, cast, and 3D-printed missing pieces to complete the skeleton. As a result, an astonishing 75 percent of its skull and 60 percent of the whole skeleton were cobbled together in the display.
In October 2021, a Paris auction featured the skeleton — and sold it for a record-setting $7.7 million — the highest ever paid for a dinosaur skeleton that isn’t a T. rex.
The sale to the Tampa-based Pagidipati family was controversial in scientific circles. Scientists feared the rising prices of fossils would prevent museums and universities from purchasing scientifically valuable specimens.
When Can You See Big John?
Big John will be loaned to the Glazer Children’s Museum for at least 3 years. The exhibit opens on May 26, 2023. Entrance will be included with museum admission. Timed reservations will ensure guests can visit with minimal crowding.
Up Close And Personal
According to Sarah Cole, president and CEO of the Glazer Children’s Museum, “What makes dinosaurs such an enduring and universal source of fascination is their ability to bridge the gap between generations. It’s hard to believe that these seemingly mythical creatures roamed our planet long ago, so getting up close to a fossil as remarkable as Big John inspires awe and sparks curiosity about the world around us.”
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