On our travels for Full Measure, we couldn't resist a visit to a renowned dinosaur museum that's so far off the beaten path, you'll probably never make it there in person. The Carter County Museum in Montana, founded in 1936, is known by scientists around the world for the stories it tells about what walked the earth more than 60 million years ago. Our guide is the Museum’s Executive Director, Sabre Moore.
Sharyl: So, you want to tell me first about this big guy?
Sabre Moore: Yes. So this is Wyrex. He was named after Don Wyrick, which is where this dinosaur is found on his ranch, outside of Fallon County.
Sharyl: It's a Tyrannosaurus rex?
Moore: Yes, a Tyrannosaurus rex. And it would have been an adult Tyrannosaurus rex. What is really unique about Wyrex is that this was the first T-Rex where the third metatarsal, the third finger was discovered. Carter County is a really fantastic example of preservation of what's known as the Cretaceous–Paleogene boundary. And that is the extinction event that's preserved of when the asteroid came in and wiped out all the dinosaurs, we believe. So we see about 65 million years ago, dinosaurs are out, they're in the area and then, just around 64, 60 million years ago, we end up with just mammals. And in Carter County, there's a preservation layer of that ash layer that happened when the asteroid hit and then all this ash was in the air.
Sharyl: What is this?
Moore: Over here, this is what we call a Quetzalcoatlus. And a Quetzalcoatlus was not a dinosaur. It was actually a flying reptile. This one would have been as big as a modern-day Cessna with its wingspan fully out. And then next to the Quetzalcoatlus, this is our Edmontosaurus or duck-billed dinosaur. It was one of the first fossils discovered and put in the museum.
Sharyl: And what is this?
Moore: So this is a triceratops and in a lot of places you'll hear them referred to as the cows of the Cretaceous. They're very common and they're also plant eaters as well. You've got the three horns.
Sharyl: Okay. And then we can go to the back. So, can you orient us to what we're seeing here?
Moore: Yes. So, this is what's known as the Randall mammoth and it was found on the Randall Ranch, outside of Broadus, Montana in Powder River County. And the Randall mammoth was discovered by an angler, a fisherman walking down the river.
Sharyl: And can you explain, this is actually just the skull part of it.
Moore: Yes. So, this skull was actually discovered the second summer that we were excavating this mammal. And again, it was in the banks of the Powder River. And what we're seeing here is this is the right side of the face. So, this part here, and then this tusk. This is what we believe is a Colombian mammoth, which is one of the larger sizes of mammoths.
Sharyl: What do you think is most interesting about the things you've learned here, things you've seen here?
Moore: What I really love about the Carter County Museum and our collections is just that it tells a story, not only of extinction, but also of survival.
Sharyl (on camera): Moore says avian dinosaurs and birds somehow continued on after the extinction event, which was believed to be an asteroid that wiped out most everything else.