Nanotyrannus Jane update

Nanotyrannus Jane update

By Rod Myers, Naturalist

The sandstone dust has settled in the Burpee Museum lab; the plaster cast containing most of the bones of Jane, the Nanotyrannus dinosaur was cut open Wednesday, Jan. 8. It was opened after months of waiting and weeks of planning. Mike Henderson, Burpee’s paleontologist and commander in chief of the cast opening, was concerned about all the logistics involved. “Things went according to plan,” Henderson said. The project took careful preparation and the cooperation of many parties. First, a boxlike table with compact, durable roller-type wheels was constructed. The table withstood the cast with contents plus the weight of an examining human or two, total weight, 2-1/4 tons.

Before the cutting took place, a forklift lent and operated by Woods Power Equipment of Oregon, free of charge, lifted the plaster cast on the box table. A large cast cutter was borrowed from St. Anthony Medical Center. I never was able to find out just who cut the cast, but rumor has it that Dr. Frederick Flintstone performed the surgery.

A metal support structure was secured to one side of the box table. The structure goes up 6 feet past the cast, then turns 90 degrees going over Jane, where it supports three observation lights.

One phase yet to be done is a string grid system resting on a wooden frame. The grid will be directly over Jane, allowing precise mapping. This, plus photographing all artifacts before and after removal from the sand and sandstone in the open plaster pod, will help make the discovery process as scientific as possible.

The plaster pod was made at the dig site in the Hell Creek Formation in the southeastern tip of Montana. The pod is now an in-house dig site and will be treated with extreme care and security. Two video cameras at the ceiling overlooking Jane are connected to two live Web sites, one of which is operational now— This combines publicity with security. One Web site belongs to WREX-TV. You can see the dirt on Jane; click to, though it won’t be operational until February.

As of Jan. 15, more of Jane’s teeth and a partial leg bone of a smaller meat-eating dinosaur were found in the pod, but nothing was removed.

Just before the Burpee Paleofest Feb. 22 and 23, the pod will be rolled upstairs to rest next to the replica skeleton of the Tyrannosaurus rex. Jane’s pod will be a major drawing card of the Paleofest.

A long list of dinosaur experts will be speaking and interacting with fest-goers at this year’s Paleofest. The list includes Robert Bakker, author of the book The Dinosaur Heresies and chief advocate of the Nanotyrannus as a separate species theory. Tom Carr will lecture. Tom has practically made a living by refuting the past existence of Nanotyrannus as a distinct species.

Peter Larson, world-famous paleontologist and the man most responsible for getting Sue, the T-rex on display in Chicago, will speak at Burpee. In fact, Peter Larson, Mike Henderson of Burpee, Tom Carr and Robert Bakker will debate what they believe Jane is and the controversy surrounding the past existence of Nanotyrannus. See and hear the debate at 3:30 p.m., Feb. 23.

For information about the long list of other speakers and events at Paleofest 2003, call the Burpee Museum at (815) 965-3433, or click on

I’d been cleaning Jane’s bones for four months when Christmas rolled around, so I decided to take the holidays and January as a hiatus from bone preparation. This coincides with Burpee lab changes, a reshuffling of responsibilities and a new tone in procedure. In the meantime, I’m updating my Jane art journal by drawing new pictures of Jane’s bones in pre-, post- and during the actual process of being prepared in the laboratory.

I’ve learned a ton about paleontology and paleontologists by being part of Jane’s gang. Most of the gang has tolerated my sense of humor. Remember, in the last article about Jane, I suggested that Burpee should ask Robin Williams to do a promo for Jane by simply putting on his Mork outfit and saying, “Nano nano.” Well, I have a better idea—a couple of years down the road, when Jane has her sea legs and has her gizzard stones all in a pile, then it’s time to send a fleet of her replicas to Hollywood to lobby for her own family’s HBO series. What would the series be called? There could only be one answer: The Shenanos.

Rod Myers is a local resident with an interest in the environment and disability issues. He has an associate’s degree in science and a bachelor’s in fine arts. Rod is a member of the Audubon Society, the Wild Ones Natural Landscapers and Rockford Amateur Astronomers, Inc.

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