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A peek into the biggest collection of dinosaurs in the Nordic region

Published lördag 9 januari 2016 kl 11.40
“We certainly have a large number of exceptionally unique specimens,”
(11 min)
At the Paleontology Museum. Photo: George Wood/Radio Sweden.
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At the Paleontology Museum. Photo: George Wood/Radio Sweden.
Dr. Ben Kear at the Evolution Museum Paleontology in Uppsala. Photo: Evolutionsmuseet.
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Dr. Ben Kear at the Evolution Museum Paleontology in Uppsala. Photo: Evolutionsmuseet.
The unique fossil of the Brontosaurus-like Euhelopus zdanskyi at the Evolution Museum in Uppsala. Photo: Evolutionsmuseet.
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The unique fossil of the Brontosaurus-like Euhelopus zdanskyi at the Evolution Museum in Uppsala. Photo: Evolutionsmuseet.
Reconstruction of Euhelopus by local artist Tomas Wigren. Image: Evolutionsmuseet.
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Reconstruction of Euhelopus by local artist Tomas Wigren. Image: Evolutionsmuseet.
Ichthyosaur at the Paleontology Museum. Photo: George Wood/Radio Sweden
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Ichthyosaur at the Paleontology Museum. Photo: George Wood/Radio Sweden

The Paleontology Department of the Evolution Museum in Uppsala holds the Nordic region’s largest collection of dinosaurs, including the world’s only example of the long-necked Brontosaurus-like sauropod Euhelopus zdanskyi.

This particular sauropod housed at the museum is the holotype, the one specimen that was used to describe the species and carries all the features that designate the species.

"We have an enormous mass of holotypes, which is significant, so whenever any scientist needs to come and work with this material, they must come to the very original specimen that was used," Dr. Ben Kear, curator of Vertebrate Paleontology, tells Radio Sweden.

“We certainly have a large number of exceptionally unique specimens, ranging from North American dinosaurs from New Mexico, and giant marine reptiles from the icy poles of Svalbard, to colossal Chinese dinosaurs that made their way here in the 20’s and are part of the core of the collection," Kear says.

The museum houses skeletons and bones from giant creatures like skulls of the familiar Tyrannosaurus (unlike most of the fossils there, a replica) and the Triceratops’ early relative the Pentaceratops; to a Plesiosaur (the archetype of the fictional Loch Ness monster) and other aquatic reptiles; to flying Pterosaurs.

The collection goes beyond extinct reptiles, and even includes the very first fossil found of Peking Man, our human ancestor Homo erectus.

Besides the exhibitions upstairs that attract the public, the real work of the museum goes on downstairs. As part of Uppsala University, the museum is an active research center, analyzing the finds by expeditions from the far corners of the Earth. While the museum is largely based on finds from digs in the last century in China, currently there are annual expeditions looking for dinosaur remains on Greenland.

As part of its educational mandate, the museum has an online presence, hoping to fill what is perceived as a gap in Swedish education.

“The problem is, in Sweden there’s very little education about evolution or geological processes or any of this kind of paleontological knowledge or what this means,” Dr. Ben Kears says. “Climate change is a good example. For the long time perspective, the fossil record is the only way we can work this out. Our objective is to create education packages that we can send directly to schools.”

Our journalism is based on credibility and impartiality. Swedish Radio is independent and not affiliated to any political, religious, financial, public or private interests.
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