Museum of Natural Sciences

Science museum love continued in Brussels! We visited The Museum of Natural Sciences to learn more about dinosaurs, mosasaurs, bears, and evolution.

Naturally, our first stop was the dinosaurs. There’s a fancy app and also a set of downloadable questions for kids. We started both and gave them up pretty quickly. You’d have to read nearly everything in the museum to be able to answer all of the questions and our kids didn’t want to “do school.”

Isaac watched a video on Tyrannosaurus Rex and learned a ton.

Isaac watched a video at the foot of this display and was bubbling over with new info afterwards. Apparently T Rex wasn’t so much a predator as a vulture. It seems they preferred to eat meat that was already dead (carrion). That said, they did have some major battles. This particular dinosaur had several broken bones in various stages of healing, as well as a hole in the skull that was approximately the right size for another T Rex to have bitten it. The dinosaur survived the bite to the skull and was killed by something else.

Unbelievably, I managed not to take a picture of the iguanadons in the room. This is remarkable because they are all together in large glass cases, their bones are black, and they’re clearly the main draw of the room. One of the fascinating things about the display, however, is that as you’re walking through, you learn that the iguanadons, each modeled as standing on its two rear feet, would not actually have walked that way. And as you stand and look at them, you realize how massive the bones to the forelegs are, so they were clearly designed to help carry the dinosaur’s weight. Due to the fragile state of the bones, the museum is not able to modify the displays. If you’re interested to see more about this, there’s a quick video here from the museum itself.

These iguanadons were discovered in a coal mine, which helps to explain some of the darkening of the bones. The bones were also treated and sealed with a chemical which further darkened over time, making the bones appear black. As you walk down into the lower levels of the museum, you can see what the cave looked like and how the dinosaurs were found there.

I couldn’t capture the whole space at once. There were a lot of bones there!

The theory is that these dinosaurs were trapped by a flood or mud slide as it made its way through a swamp. The area of the coal mine was a low point, and thus, final resting place, for whatever dinosaurs had been caught by it.

“Major discovery bones in fault Bernissart coal mine STOP Pyrite deterioration STOP Send Depauw to arrive Mons station tomorrow 8 AM STOP Will be there STOP Urgent STOP Gustave Arnaut.”

In addition to all of the amazing dinosaurs, we also learned more about mosasaurs, which are Isaac’s favorite prehistoric creature. This is the second time we’ve been exposed to mosasaurs. The first time, we were on vacation in Big Bend National Park (which used to be completely underwater). Isaac would like me to note that mosasaurs are NOT dinosaurs. No marine dinosaurs have been discovered to date.

I honestly think this picture is why Isaac likes mosasaurs so much. There was a very similar one posted in Big Bend, as well.

The fossil on display here is massive – I couldn’t photograph the whole thing. Seeing the skeleton was impressive – there was no fossil on display in Big Bend. The mosasaur had enormous teeth, a long body, strange flippers, and an exceptionally long tail.

“At the end of the age when dinosaurs ruled the Earth, marine lizards, often gigantic in size, roamed the seas. They were mosasaurs.”

The museum has a large area dedicated to the evolution of humankind. If you’ve read or watched any documentaries on this, you may be familiar with “Lucy.” It was very cool to see a replica of her skeleton. I remember watching a documentary on her several years ago when Isaac was a baby.

The skeleton of “Lucy”

Our final stop in the museum was in a display on bears. There was some info on Theodore Roosevelt and the invention of the teddy bear. There were also some neat displays about bears in children’s books (e.g., Winnie the Pooh, Paddington, and Baloo from The Jungle Book). The kids enjoyed some of the interactive sections about how bears live and what they eat.

Mama Bear and stages of a cub’s life

After a fun afternoon exploring the museum, we grabbed a few chocolate-covered waffles near the station and headed home to Leuven.

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