It’s Jurassic Park at the BE Library!
Jim Pollard puts some of his dino fossils on display
Visitors to the Blue Earth Community Library might be a bit startled by a new exhibit in the library lobby.
The large skull of a dinosaur with jaws full of sharp teeth seems to be menacing every visitor walking in.
While it looks like the skull of a Tyrannosaurus rex, it is actually much smaller than a T-rex and belongs to a dinosaur called Acrocanthosaurus, or ‘Acro’ for short.
“It is a cast of the actual skull,” says Blue Earth resident Jim Pollard, who has the skull and other fossils on loan to display in the library. “The cast was made by a friend of mine, Peter Larson, of the Black Hills Institute of Geological Research in Hill City, South Dakota. He made it knowing I wanted to display it in this library in Blue Earth.”
The original skull is worth about $1 million, so Pollard says exact replica casts are made for display purposes, even those of full-bodied dinosaurs in large museums.
Acrocanthosaurus was one of North America’s largest predators 110-120 million years ago, according to information Pollard has on handouts at the library. It does look similar to the T-rex but lived 50 million years earlier.
Its name comes from Greek and means “high spined lizard.”
The first Acrocanthosaurus bones were discovered in 1950.
“This particular Acro fossil was discovered in McCurtain County, Oklahoma, in 1950, by Cephus Hall, a self-described Oklahoma hillbilly and Sid Love,” Pollard says. “It took them 10 years to get it all removed out of the ground.”
The two discoverers of the Acro dinosaur named it “Fran,” after the wife of a friend who helped finance their expedition. There are several T-rex skeletons that also have names, such as “Sue” and “Stan.”
Peter Larson was the leader on the dig when the “Sue” T-rex was found, by one of his team members, Sue Hendrickson.
Pollard has also been on many digs looking for dinosaur and other fossils. He has a few at the library which are in display cases he brought in.
“I went on digs each summer to South Dakota and sometimes Wyoming, starting in the 1980s and 1990s,” Pollard says. “I took my children, too. There is just nothing like it – being an explorer in a wide open area that looks like it did 10,000 years ago, camping out. Going on a dig is unlike anything else you could do.”
And if you find some fossils, you realize you are the first person to ever see them, he adds, and that is quite a feeling.
Pollard thinks it is important for kids to understand this part of natural history, and that is one of the main reasons he wanted to put his fossils on display at the library.
“I also want to sponsor one kid to go on a dig each summer, with a parent, to experience it,” he says. “And if we find some fossils, they can keep them. Although we might want to have some of them on display in the library. Imagine, some dinosaur fossils on display in the Blue Earth Library that were discovered by Blue Earth kids.”
For now, just be aware that on your next visit to the Blue Earth Community Library you might think you traveled to Jurassic Park.
“I don’t want people to refer to this skull as a fake,” Pollard says. “It is an exact replica of the original skull, a precise cast. Pete (Larson, who made the cast) says it is hard to tell it from the original.”
Pollard adds that the cast of the skull is not meant to deceive people, but to educate them.
The skull is 51 inches long, with the lower jaw at 52 inches long. The whole Acro dinosaur was 38 feet long and 11 feet high at the hip in its usual bent over position. It weighed 15,000 pounds and could run at 20 miles per hour.
So, when you walk into the library next time, try not to be scared. Unless you just watched the Jurassic World movie.