Nearly two decades after making the discovery of a lifetime, a St. Paul dinosaur expert gets to host a display of the species she uncovered.
Kristi Curry Rogers finally is getting a chance to show off her dinosaur.
Curry Rogers, a professor at Macalester College, was taking part in a summer archaeological dig in Madagascar in 1996 when she uncovered bones that she eventually would prove belonged to a previously unknown species.
On Saturday, that dinosaur — along with 19 others — will go on public display as part of the “Ultimate Dinosaurs” exhibit at the Science Museum of Minnesota.
“It’s come full circle,” she said of the long-neck dinosaur’s arrival at the museum.
Curry Rogers served as the museum’s curator of paleontology from 1999 to 2008, a period that included her research in proving that this dinosaur was different from every other one previously discovered. “It all took years of work,” she said.
Assembling the dinosaur in St. Paul was a lot easier. Because the dinosaur is part of a traveling exhibit and had been previously assembled, it arrived in Minnesota in prefab pieces that could be snapped together like immense Lego blocks.
Curry Rogers was on hand last week to watch her dinosaur go together. She wasn’t so much supervising the process as reveling in the excitement, an experience that kicked up a notch when the artisans assembling the skeleton stepped aside to let her attach the last piece — the skull.
Until that moment, she had seen it fully assembled only once before, at the Field Museum in Chicago.
“The poses are different,” she said, tactfully dodging the question of which one she preferred. “The Field exhibit went for more of a regal stance, with the dinosaur looking out into the distance. This is more of an action pose.”
The display has a personal connection for her beyond its location. The exhibit pairs her dinosaur with a Majungasaurus, a creature that her husband, Ray Rogers, also a Macalester professor, has been instrumental in researching.
“It was a carnivore, and he proved that it engaged in cannibalism by matching its teeth with marks on the bones of other Majungasauruses,” she said. The discovery was groundbreaking because no other dinosaur species is known to have done that.
Did hers eat others of its own kind? “No,” she insisted. “Mine was an herbivore. It was much more docile.”
Even the name she picked for it is playful. She dubbed it Rapetosaurus, pronounced rah-PAY-toe-sore-us. “It’s named after Rapeto, a mischievous giant that’s a legend in Madagascar,” she said.
The find of a lifetime
Curry Rogers downplays the importance of making scientific history with her discovery of an unreported species. “It’s just a matter of being in the right place at the right time,” she said.
But others spare no superlatives when talking about her.
“She’s a jewel,” said Mike Day, the senior vice president who oversees the museum’s programming. “She’s wonderful at interacting with people, and she’s a damn good paleontologist. It’s great that we have her, and it’s great that we have her dinosaur.”
She never lacks enthusiasm, her husband said.