At the Field Museum in Chicago, it tells you that birds are dinosaurs. I learned that one bird has evolved to be even scarier than its awe-inspiring ancestors. The shrike.It doesn’t look big and scary. Blue-gray, maybe eight inches long, it could be mistaken for a blue jay. Its behavior is the scary part.
Shrikes are predatory, hunting small birds and rodents to eat. But they often can’t eat all they catch at one setting, so they store it. So, unlike civilized creatures that might keep it in a hollow tree or a burrow or something, they drape the carcasses over the branches of bushes. Bloody little mice and sparrows with their heads ripped off. Maybe they should be called shrieks, in honor of the noises people make when they find their little ariel cemeteries. And the best thing about these birds is that they live in North America. Maybe even in your own backyard. (Cue creepy music.)On a happier and less creepifying note, the rest of the Field Museum was cool. But we (I) did an idiotic thing by deciding to look at soil first. We spent half an hour in an exhibit clearly meant for six year olds, learning less about dirt than a single page of my geography book taught me. Half an hour of my life that I could have spent looking at dinosaurs. What was I thinking?
I guess I was thinking that we’d have enough time. But because of its stupid name I grossly underestimated the coolness of Evolving Planet, which told of the entire history of life on Earth. It included every major extinction event, every phylum in the animal kingdom and what distinguishes it, and a reminder that the next big extinction event in imminent, and man-made. But the museum closed at five, and we had no where near enough time to explore it properly.
We did, however, get to meet Sue, best-preserved and most complete T-rex skeleton ever found. No one actually knows whether Sue was a boy or a girl; she was named after the woman who discovered her, Sue Hendrickson, in 1990. Sue(the dinosaur, not the woman) is forty two(the answer to life, the universe, and everything) feet long, making her the largest t-rex ever discovered.
And people who don’t like taxidermy should avoid the animal wing. Half a dozen rooms were full of stuffed animals, and by that I don’t mean plushies. Mostly it was various kinds of antelope, although they did have the Manhunting lions of Tsavo and tigers and bears(oh my!). One interesting thing was that the hyenas were in the reptile section until the museum can pull together enough funding to move them.
We did have some time to look at dinosaurs. Which are about the coolest things to ever walk planet Earth. I could rant for ages about how epic dinosaurs are, but I fear that if you don’t already think they are awesome, there is no hope for you.
All in all, the Field Museum was one of my favorite things I’ve seen so far on this trip. If you’re in Chicago and halfway interested in any kind of science you should go check it out. And learn from my mistake, and go look at dinosaurs first!