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Rare dinosaur to drop in at museum

Burpee field crews find 'Pearl'

Published: Friday, Dec. 20, 2013 1:15 a.m. CST

ROCKFORD – Fresh from the dig, Pearl, a North American oviraptorosaur, is getting ready to make an appearance in an exhibit.

Burpee Museum of Natural History field crews found this rare dinosaur this summer. Steve Simpson, a professor at Highland Community College in Freeport, and a student made the discovery. The bones were a claw and toe of a meat-eating dinosaur.

More bones continued to be found. Eventually a foot claw was revealed. All in all, 40 were gathered, and it is thought more are waiting to be discovered.

There is only one other, almost complete, oviraptorosaur, around, making Pearl a rarity. Oviraptorosaurs are bird-like and toothless. Once Pearl is put together, it should be about 7 feet tall. The name comes from Pearl City and Pearl City Street, the home of the professor and his students.

Although Pearl is not ready to be seen, the museum does not lack other exhibits on its four floors. The lower level has the Dean Olson Viewing Lab. Here specimens are prepared to go on exhibit. Glass windows give visitors a peek behind the scenes. Homer, the triceratops, can be seen outside the lab.

The first floor exhibits explore paleontology and start a history of the earth. The past of the planet comes alive as visitors move through the displays.

On the second floor, geoscience is the topic with rocks and minerals as the stars. Continuing upstairs, Windows of the Wilderness looks at biology, and the first people in the area are spotlighted.

One word describes the museum's fun potential – interactive. While exploring, visitors can climb into a canoe, hear the sounds of a tropical storm, meet Jane the 21-foot high dinosaur, and jump into other hands-on displays.

And then, there is the matter of Homer. He is worth a closer look. His bones were found in Montana, and now, 8 years later, and after preparation in the lab, this teenager has his own exhibit. Along with Homer are other fossils including teeth, plants, and claws from the same area.

A special treat is planned for 1 to 5 p.m. Dec. 31. New Year Around the World offers a chance to ring in the New Year on the hour and in every corner of the Earth. There will be crafts to make, dance performances, and displays from other countries. The event is included in the cost of the admission.

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