Theropod Thursdays Goes to Laramie, where Big isn't Big

A cast of Museum of the Rockies' Big Al at the University of Wyoming Geological Museum in Laramie, WY. 

A cast of Museum of the Rockies' Big Al at the University of Wyoming Geological Museum in Laramie, WY. 

Good afternoon! I hope everyone is having a great week. Hard to believe that it's already Theropod Thursday again, right? Since we're on the theme of early April's eastward Road Trip, I thought I would bring up Big Al, a joint discovery with the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, MT and the University of Wyoming in Laramie. The specimen is catalogued as MOR 693, and a cast takes center stage at the University's Geological Museum on its Laramie campus. It was discovered in 1991 near Shell, in north-central Wyoming. Big Al earns its name not for its size - it is a subadult specimen only 87% grown, by estimates - but for the importance of its discovery.

When found, it was 95% complete, and showed at least 19 separate signs of injury and infection, including broken and healed ribs, and a severe infection on a foot bone that led to additional bone growth, and probably gave Big Al a limp or at least changed his gate somewhat.

Big Al shares space with a massive Apatosaurus cast, and several other dinosaurs, at the University of Wyoming Geological Museum in Laramie, WY.

Big Al shares space with a massive Apatosaurus cast, and several other dinosaurs, at the University of Wyoming Geological Museum in Laramie, WY.

In 1996, the same team discovered a second, even more well preserved Allosaurus, dubbed Big Al Two. We'll get to that some time later on down the road. Casts of Big Al the first can be found in Laramie, as well as at the University of Nebraska State Museum in Lincoln, and at the Musuem of the Rockies. The original bones are also housed there. 

Allosaurus is probably the most well known Jurassic theropod, thanks in no small part to the plentiful number of discoveries at places like Cleveland-Lloyd Quarry in Utah. Still, Big Al has been very educational. It's interesting to note that, with Allosaurus having hailed from around 150 million years ago, dinosaurs like Tyrannosaurus rex existed closer to humans in time than they did to Allosaurus.

The UW Geological Museum is on the Laramie campus of the University of Wyoming, and is free. In addition to Big Al, the museum contains casts of an Apatosaurus, Tylosaurus, and several locally found fossils. It's well worth a visit if you're in Laramie with some time to kill.