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Transcripts 1–9

Transcripts 1–9 | 10–17 | 19–27 | 28–36

Texas Memorial Museum

1. What is the outside of the museum made of?

Dr. Edward Theriot
Podcast 1

Transcript 1

The Texas Memorial Museum was established by the Texas Legislature in 1935 as part of celebrations of the Texas Centennial. It was affiliated with The University of Texas because its founders wanted to create a museum with both exhibit and research programs. The goal was to keep natural treasures that were leaving Texas here in Texas, and to bring those treasures to the public. Construction started in 1936 and was completed in 1939. The exterior of the building is limestone quarried from Central Texas. The interior is marble from Italy. In both you can see many fossils of sea creatures that lived millions of years ago.

Glen Rose dinosaur tracks

2. How old are these dinosaur tracks?

Dr. Edward Theriot
Podcast 2

Transcript 2

The Glen Rose Dinosaur Tracks are probably the most famous such tracks in the world. Taken from what is now Dinosaur Valley State Park on the Paluxy River just northwest of Glen Rose, Texas, these tracks are only a small part of the thousands of dinosaur footprints you can see and touch. They are about 113 million years old. Our tracks are thought to show a meat eating dinosaur trailing a plant eating dinosaur. In what is roughly the middle of the track, you can see a three-toed meat-eater footprint inside of the round plant eater footprint, meaning that the meat-eater had to step there after the plant-eater. No one knows whether or not the two dinosaurs struggled or how that struggle might have ended.


3. How can you tell if you've found a meteorite?

Dr. Ann Molineux
NPL Collections Manager
Podcast 3

Transcript 3

The oldest rock on Earth is 4.02 billion years old. That's the oldest one ever found. Meteorites are usually around 4.55 billion years old. The solar system formed about 4.5 billion years ago. If you want to study the first half billion years of Earth’s history meteorites are the rocks to investigate. Meteorites have been called the “poor man’s space probe” because they allow us to sample places from which no rocks have yet been brought back by spacecraft, such as parts of the Moon, Mars and asteroids. How can you recognize a meteorite? That can be quite tricky because many stony meteorites look just like Earth rocks. The ones that are more commonly noticed are iron meteorites which are abnormally heavy for their size, highly magnetic, and very dense with no internal holes.

Sea urchins

4. What do sea urchins eat?

Dr. Ann Molineux
NPL Collections Manager
Podcast 4

Transcript 4

Sea urchins are found in all oceans of the world and are even ‘farm raised’ in New England for their gonads which are used in some Asian delicacies such as Japanese sushi. They cannot survive in brackish water and are very sensitive to changes in the sea water salinity. Sea urchins main food source is algae, such as kelp, although crinoids, brittle stars and sponges provide variety. They, themselves, are the favorite food of sea otters. Where the otters are in decline rampant sea urchins can destroy the kelp beds by eating the holdfasts of the kelp.


5. Why the long spines on sailbacks?

Dr. Pamela R. Owen
Senior Biodiversity Educator
Podcast 5

Transcript 5

Before the appearance of dinosaurs, Texas was home to a type of vertebrate commonly called “sailback”. Sailbacks, such as Dimetrodon and Edaphosaurus have backbones with very long upward-extending spines. Grooves at the base of these spines probably held blood vessels, which would have carried blood through the skin that covered the spines in life. This anatomical arrangement is thought to provide the sailback with a way to regulate its body temperature. By standing with the broad surface of the sail facing the sun, a sailback would absorb heat and transport it through its circulatory system, warming its whole body. If a sailback needed to cool off, it could radiate heat from the sail as it stood in the shade.

6. Has anyone ever found a Tyrannosaurus in Texas?

Dr. Pamela R. Owen
Senior Biodiversity Educator
Podcast 6

Transcript 6

Tyrannosaurus was one of the largest of the theropod dinosaurs, the carnivorous and bipedal branch of the dinosaur family tree. Most Tyrannosaurus fossils have been found in the foothills of the central and northern Rocky Mountains, including the specimen from which this cast was made. To your right, in a special exhibit case, is part of the upper jaw of a Tyrannosaurus collected in Big Bend National Park. This rare fossil shows us that Tyrannosaurus once ranged as far south as present-day West Texas. Tyrannosaurus was one of the last dinosaurs in Texas, becoming extinct 65 million years ago, along with other dinosaurs such as Alamosaurus and Chasmosaurus.

Onion Creek Mosasaur

7. Why do mosasaurs have a second set of upper teeth?

Dr. Pamela R. Owen
Senior Biodiversity Educator
Podcast 7

Transcript 7

Mosasaurs, marine lizards that were closely related to snakes and monitor lizards, were completely adapted for life in the oceans of the Late Cretaceous. They were the top predators, feeding on other marine reptiles, fish, and ammonites. Mosasaurs were equipped with several sharp conical teeth that were used to capture and hold prey, but not to chew it into pieces. To assist in the eating of large slippery prey, mosasaurs had a set of teeth on the pterygoid bones in the roof of the mouth. Using these pterygoid teeth and flexible lower jaws, mosasaurs could swallow their prey whole, a fashion similar to that of snakes.

Shoal Creek Plesiosaur

8. Has this plesiosaur lost its head?

Dr. Pamela R. Owen
Senior Biodiversity Educator
Podcast 8

Transcript 8

Plesiosaurs are an extinct group of large aquatic reptiles that were among the largest predators in the Mesozoic oceans. Adaptations for powerful swimming are seen in the shield-like pectoral and pelvic bones and large paddle-like limbs. This plesiosaur was found by a local dentist exploring Shoal Creek. The fossil remains are exhibited in the position in which they were found and excavated. The skull was not attached to the skeleton, but discovered next to it. Unfortunately, it was very poorly preserved and broken into many pieces – too fragile to be put on exhibit. Despite the condition of its skull, this plesiosaur is still an important and fascinating part of Austin’s ancient history.

Jaw from the gomphothere "Amebelodon", an extinct relative of mammoths, elephants, and mastodons.

9. What kind of animal has a jaw like this?

Dr. Pamela R. Owen
Senior Biodiversity Educator
Podcast 9

Transcript 9

This jaw is from the gomphothere Amebelodon, an extinct relative of mammoths, elephants, and mastodons. The elongate jaw supports tusks that are flattened and shovel-like. Amebelodon used its jaws and trunk to strip bark, leaves, and twigs from trees as well as to scoop up aquatic vegetation. Not all gomphotheres were “shovel-tuskers” like Amebelodon, but all possessed molars that developed a cloverleaf pattern on the chewing surface during wear. Over its lifetime, a gomphothere used six sets of grinding teeth in each side of both the upper and lower jaws. As the previous set was worn, it was pushed forward by the eruption of the next larger, unworn set of teeth.