PaleoFest 2003 and what Jane might do

PaleoFest 2003 and what Jane might do

By Rod Myers, Naturalist

See Jane run to the bank. See Jane deposit millions of dollars for Rockford. See Jane save Rockford from the hordes of red ink. Sound familiar? Well, it should because according to those running Rockford, Jane, the Nanotyrannus that lives in Burpee Museum of Natural History’s basement, is going to save Rockford from financial ruin. And that’s not all—Jane is forecast to be the centerpiece of our culture. You know what? This might happen, but be wise, don’t count your dinosaur chicks before they hatch. However, if Burpee’s 2003 PaleoFest was any indictor, then Jane’s going to be a success.

The Fest had top-notch speakers such as Mike Carr, Peter Larson and Robert Bakker, all giants in the field of paleontology. But guess who stole the show—Jane did!

A large portion of Jane lies in a freshly opened plaster cast pod. The bones in this pod have yet to be unearthed from the sand, sandstone and other stone that have covered them for 65 million years. Jane’s pod sat next to the huge T. rex replica on the first floor dinosaur exhibit area during PaleoFest. Thousands of Paleofest-goers eagerly trekked past Jane’s pod to glimpse her.

Most experts believe Jane is a Nanotyrannus, but the game is not 100 percent over. There are still little shreds of doubt; however, the evidence leans heavily in favor of Jane being a Nanotyrannus. A paleontologist who has a skull of a juvenile T. rex has sent Burpee’s Mike Henderson measurements of that skull. The young T. rex, which is the only one known to be unearthed, has different measurements than Jane’s skull. The T. rex skull is more robust and is 2 inches longer. It also has sockets for 12 teeth on each side of the lower jaw, giving it 24 on the entire bottom. Jane has sockets for 17 teeth on each side of the lower jaw, giving her 34 on the entire bottom. One could argue that the T. rex juvenile is older because it’s 2 inches longer; therefore, it could have had more “baby” teeth but lost them in the maturation process. However, the changes in bone structure, which would transform lower jaws from having 34 sockets, to 28 sockets could not occur with just 2 inches in growth. This leads us to conclude that juvenile T. rexes have the same number of teeth as adult T. rexes. This argument favors Jane being a separate species and not being a juvenile T. rex. There are many facts about Jane that would lead you to believe she is an adult, but I just can’t list them all.

On the last day of PaleoFest, I was able to hang out with Jane’s Gang and talk informally with Fest-goers. It was an interesting experience, and I showed off some of the drawings I’ve made for Jane’s art journal. This event was scheduled for an hour, but it ran longer.

At 3:30 p.m. the same day, Robert Bakker, Peter Larson and Mike Henderson took on Gregory Paul and Mike Carr in a debate on whether Jane is a juvenile T. rex or a Nanotyrannus. Needless to say, it was a very interesting discussion.

The Chicago Field Museum of Natural History sent a couple of gentlemen to Burpee to teach us bone cleaners how to do an even more incredible job. When I told one that Burpee predicted Jane would bring in an extra 100,000 visitors a year to Burpee, he began to chuckle. He thought that number was very conservative. He went on to tell me 2.3 million came to see T. rex “Sue” the first year it was on display.

Let’s hope Jane packs in higher numbers, much higher than expected. But let’s hope that if people give a little money to see Jane, they leave with an experience that is what they call priceless.

Remember, Jane was part of the natural world and currently resides in a museum of natural history. If, in the future, Rockford’s biggest claim to fame is Jane, then give nature the credit and be humbled by it.

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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