Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Smithsonian Institute National Museum of Natural History Washington D.C.

Spring break usually finds me camping somewhere in southern Utah, miles away from any large city. Not this year however, I took my grand-daughter to Washington D.C. Washington besides the obvious political attractions has the Smithsonian Museums. My favorite ( surprise, surprise) is the museum of Natural History, (although the Air and Space Museum is really cool too.)

Wow! What a Museum! T-Rex! These dinosaurs were big animals! Although I have read recently a hypothesis that suggests they were more scavengers than hunters. The hypothesis is they were big and scary looking to frighten the actual hunters away from the kills, so T-Rex could eat the kills of the other animals in peace.

ooohhhh... from a big dinosaur to a little one.... Archaeopteryx is a transitional form between reptiles and birds. Do birds have bones in their tails? Nope. Do they have teeth in jaws? Nope. Do they have claws on their wings? Nope. (Well one species still does, but only as chicks>) So they why is this fossil a bird? Look at the impression of the feathers. Birds have feathers. This fossil also has a "wishbone" just like chickens and turkeys.

This lovely fossil is of an Ammonite. Ammonites are related to modern day Mollusks like the nautilus, squid and octopus. They were a very diverse group of animals during the Cretaceous Period 144-65 million years ago. They are about 10,000 different species that have been identified.

So what's this lumpy looking fossil? It's one of the first trees! This is a fossil of a plant called Eospermatopteris. These trees grew to a height of about 40 feet. This early tree is about 345 million years old.

This tree is about 100 years old. The cherry trees near the Jefferson Memorial were in full bloom, and just beautiful when we first arrived. It rained a couple days later and the trees lost a lot of their blossoms.

Cherry trees near the Washington Monument

Trees in full bloom around the tidal basin

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