Smithsonian Unveils Evotourism (TM) Website For People Interested In Our Evolutionary Past

Ever heard of Evotourism? No? That’s because the Smithsonian Institution just made it up.

This month’s issue of Smithsonian magazine is all about Evotourism, which they’ve decided to trademark so we all have to put that pesky trademark symbol after it. Not a user-friendly way to coin a new term.

As their new dedicated site says, Evotourism is the “Smithsonian’s new travel-information service that will help you find and fully enjoy the wonders of evolution. Whether it’s a city museum or suburban fossil trove, a historic scientific site overseas or a rare creature in your own backyard, we’ll direct you to places and discoveries that figure in the science of evolution or offer eye-opening evidence of the process of natural selection.”

The site lists a variety of places to learn about the evolution of life on our planet, from Dinosaur National Monument in Utah, where you and your family can pose for photos in front of a dinosaur still encased in rock, to Darwin’s home just outside London. Each destination is given a detailed treatment with an accompanying article.

There are also some general articles on subjects such as the life and work of Charles Darwin. One important piece is an interview with Christián Samper, former director of Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History that clears up many of the misconceptions about evolution, such as the common misperception that belief in evolution and belief in God is an either/or proposition.

The site is organized by theme, so if you have kids in tow or are a photographer, you’ll be directed to the sites that are best for you.

It’s a good list to start with, but of course there are many more sites to visit and the folks at the Smithsonian will be adding to it. They were modest enough not to include their own Natural History Museum in Washington, DC, surely one of the best Evotourism destinations anywhere. I’d also suggest the Science Museum in London, the Natural History Museum in New York City, and the Natural History Museum in Oxford, England.

For adventure travelers who want to get to the source, there’s the National Museum in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, which has Lucy, the famous 3.2 million-year-old Australopithecus afarensis, and a display of skulls from the earliest human ancestors to modern humans in chronological order to show how primate-like traits gradually gave way to a more human appearance. Other rooms show the evolution of other animals.

What other Evotourism destinations would you recommend? Tell us in the comments section!

[Photo courtesy Flickr user InSapphoWeTrust]

Ultimate Dinosaurs Exhibit In Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto

We all know about the Tyrannosaurus Rex and Triceratops, but what about the Gigantosaurus, pictured above, or the Amargasaurus? These are just a couple of the little-known dinosaurs highlighted at a new exhibit at the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, Canada.

“Ultimate Dinosaurs: Giants from Gondwana
” looks at recently discovered dinosaur species from South America, Africa and Madagascar, some of which have never before been displayed in Canada. Not content with simply assembling the skeletons and putting them on a pedestal, the curators have painted the walls with richly detailed murals and have also created Augmented Reality experiences where visitors can interact with the displays to learn more. You can even flesh out a dinosaur skeleton to see how paleontologists recreate these fearsome beasts from the bones they find.

The exhibit looks at how continental drift affected the dinosaur evolution during the Mesozoic Era 250–65 million years ago. At the start of this period there was one giant land mass called Pangaea. This later divided into Laurasia in the north and Gondwana in the south, which in turn separated into the continents we’re familiar with. This increasing isolation led to dinosaur species evolving separately.

Some of these unusual dinosaurs will surprise you. The long-necked Futalognkosaurus was one of the biggest animals to have ever walked the earth, measuring 110 feet long and weighing as much as 10 elephants. Suchomimus had a face like a crocodile and the Majungasaurus appears to have been a cannibal. Majungasaurus bite marks have been found on the bones of other Majungasaurs.

Ultimate Dinosaurs: Giants from Gondwana” runs until March 17, 2013.

Dinosaur National Monument re-opens Carnegie Quarry for first time in 5 years

Dinosaur National Monument is one of the lesser known gems in the U.S. National Park system. Spread out across parts of Colorado and Utah, the park is home to an amazing display of fossils left over from the Jurassic era. In fact, the park’s Carnegie Quarry is considered one of the best places on Earth to view the remains of a wide variety of dinosaurs. For the past five years however, the Quarry has been hidden from the eyes of visitors due to an ongoing construction project. On Tuesday, that will change.

The National Park Service has announced that the all new Quarry Exhibit Hall will officially open on Tuesday, October 4th at 11 AM local time. When the facility does open, it will allow visitors to view the world famous fossil wall, where the remains of nearly 1500 different dinosaurs are encased. Amongst the species on display are Allosaurus, Stegosaurus, and Torvosaurus, to name just a few.

The Quarry Exhibit Hall joins a new visitor center, which was just opened this past Wednesday, as well. The visitor center serves as a gateway to the Quarry and features its own exhibits, bookstore, and theater. The two were built in conjunction with one another over the past few years and are now ready for the public to enjoy.

The official ribbon cutting ceremony will be attended by Utah Governor Gary Herbert and a number of other guests, such as Park Paleontologist Dan Chure and the jazz and marching bands from a local high school. The public is invited of course, and for fans of dinosaurs, this is sure to be a grand occasion. After all, for the first time in a half-decade, we’ll all have the opportunity to see one of the best displays of natural history on the planet.

Petrified Forest National Park expands by 26,000 acres

The Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona just got bigger to the tune of 26,000 acres.

After years of negotiation, the National Park Service bought the land from a ranching family, the Daily Democrat reports. This land had been enveloped by the park when it expanded from 93,500 acres to 218,500 acres in 2004.

The park is famous for its colorful petrified trees scattered across the landscape. The scenery is equally colorful, with rugged hills striated with differently hued stone.

Since the new acquisition is remote ranching land closed to visitors, it should prove a treasure trove to archaeologists and paleontologists. Traces of prehistoric Native Americans, such as arrowheads and petroglyphs (rock art) are common finds in the park, and many dinosaur bones have also been found. Scientists get first dibs on the area, so it will be at least a few years before it opens to the public.

[Photo courtesy the Petrified Forest Ranger, who has an amazing photostream on flickr]

SkyMall Monday: Mombasa the Garden Giraffe vs. Boris the Bronotosaurus

Here at SkyMall Monday, we love lawn ornaments. By now, you should know about our affinity for the Garden Yeti, his baking abilities and incredibly high threshold for pain. This week, however, we take a look at the two biggest beasts offered up in SkyMall. Rather than litter your lawn an army of tiny Garden Gnomes, it’s time that you allowed your yard to be dominated with a true giant. So, this week, it’s Mombasa the Garden Giraffe vs. Boris the Brontosaurus.

Let’s take a look at how these two fearsome competitors stack up.

In a close battle that I wish we could see actually play itself out in a suburban backyard, Boris the Brontosaurus edges out Mombasa the Garden Giraffe the win the title of Best Massive SkyMall Lawn Ornament. However, that’s just our scientific opinion. We want to know which garden monster you prefer.

Vote in our poll and share your thoughts in the comments below.


Check out all of the previous SkyMall Monday posts HERE.