Visiting the fourth floor of the American Museum of Natural History in New York is a bit like dying and going to dinosaur heaven: there are over 600 complete or near-complete fossils of dinosaurs, pterosaurs, marine reptiles, and primitive mammals on display here (these are just the tip of the prehistoric iceberg, since the museum also maintains a collection of over one million bones, accessible only to qualified scientists). The large exhibits are arranged "cladistically," evoking the evolutionary relationships of these extinct reptiles as you go from room to room; for example, there are separate halls devoted to ornithischian and saurischian dinosaurs, as well as a Hall of Vertebrate Origins devoted largely to fish, sharks, and the reptiles that preceded the dinosaurs.
Why Does AMNH Have so Many Fossils?
This institution was at the forefront of early paleontology research, represented by such famous paleontologists as Barnum Brown and Henry F. Osborn-who ranged as far afield as Mongolia to collect dinosaur bones, and, naturally enough, brought the best samples back for permanent exhibition in New York. For this reason, a whopping 85 percent of the display skeletons at the American Museum of Natural History are composed of real fossil material, rather than plaster casts. Some of the most impressive specimens are Lambeosaurus, Tyrannosaurus Rex and Barosaurus, among a cast of hundreds.
Planning to Go?
If you're planning a trip to AMNH, keep in mind that there's much, much more to see than dinosaurs and prehistoric animals. This museum has one of the world's best collections of gems and minerals (including a full-sized meteorite), as well as vast halls devoted to extant mammals, birds, reptiles and other creatures from around the globe. The anthropology collection-much of which is devoted to Native Americans-is also a source of wonder. And if you're feeling really ambitious, try attending a show at the nearby Rose Center for Earth and Space (previously the Hayden Planetarium), which will set you back a bit of cash but is well worth the effort.