THATNat: Rock or Bone?

Originally published March 13, 2018

On your THATNat at the Natural History Museum, you’ll come across lots of objects that look like skeletons. Mighty T-Rex skulls, a full Iguanodon, and winged pteranodons. But are the skeletons the same as the skulls of the mammoths and mastodons in the museum’s collection?   

It’s a tricky question – one that we will answer on the hunt, of course!   

Not all fossils are bones. Any trace of a long-dead creature can be a fossil. Footprints are fossils. Bones are fossils. Egg shells are fossils. Even droppings are fossils – and we can learn a lot from them! But don’t expect to find some dino do-do with any organic matter in it. That stuff is long gone.   

The Mantellisaurus!

Dinosaur remains are millions of years old, and none actually have any cell tissue in them anymore. They aren’t, well, bones. They are simply mineral replications of the bones that they once were. They have the shape and form of bone, but they are essentially rocks. There is a particular process that leads to these bones becoming the fossils you see today.   

This process is called petrification. If you can remember that you’ll have some bonus points in your pocket for the THATMuse Dinosaurs and Extinct Beasts treasure hunt!

Just in time for Easter, we’ll be celebrating these creatures by bringing them back to life, even if just in our imaginations!

By Bryan Pirolli

4 Comments on “THATNat: Rock or Bone?

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