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Museum Center preparing 'Claws Exhibit'; feathered dinosaurs are the 'stars'

Paleontologist Denver Fowler measures the base for a display of a feathered dinosaur, yet to be named, that will be featured in the upcoming dinosaur exhibit "Claws" at the Dickinson Museum Center.

Denver Fowler, paleontologist at the Dickinson Museum Center, has been waiting patiently for the arrival of three models of fossil species that lived in North Dakota 66 million years ago. They will be the ‘stars” for  an upcoming dinosaur exhibit titled “Claws.”

The shipment arrived last week, when he unpacked the box of custom-made models  by Serbian paleoartist Boban Filpovich.

“They are probably the finest feathered dinosaur models that you can see anywhere,” Fowler. said.

The public was invited to join him for a sneak preview of the models on Tuesday, but the real exhibit will be open for the summer.

The models are  based  on research that Fowler and his colleague,  Liz Freedman-Fowler have published.

“It’s about the different shapes of dinosaur claws and how they used them,” he said. “We’re telling the story about claws by using Hell Creek Formation fossils. We’re comparing minute details, like the curvature inside and outside the claw, to modern-day animals, not necessarily birds and how the features evolved.”

One of the models is a feathered velociraptor. It’s demonstrated with the kill of a Didelphodon -- a small mammal that existed at the same period of time.

“The best skull ever found was in southwest North Dakota,” he said. “The tail (of the Didelphodon)  is theoretical, but we know what the head was like.”

The second feathered dinosaur has yet to be named.

“It doesn’t have a name yet because no one has found enough of this guy,” he said. “We’re currently writing a paper describing this particular type of dinosaur. This one is weird -- it has big claws in front. We found bones in the Hell Creek Formation of Montana, but it was here in North Dakota, too. We have complete skeletons (of a similar fossil) from Mongolia, so we have a good idea of what it looked like.”

He referenced how a velociraptor would use its claws  --but this guy?

“How do you explain an animal with really short arms and really long legs that we think ate insects. This animal was running around Dickinson 66 million years ago -- what on earth was it doing?  You think T-Rex had short little arms, but this guy had really short, but really strong arms.”

He said both feathered dinosaurs, and the mammal are the best models of fossils you can see anywhere.

“Boban stepped it up, his work before was really good, but this was outstanding,” Fowler said. “These are absolutely world-class models. We were told to make this into a world-class museum, and these things are really classy -- these are the stars.”

Fowler will be working on the “Claws” exhibit throughout the winter, and the big reveal will be announced this spring.

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