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Hall of Dinos

The world's largest dinosaur mural is now open for viewing in Pittsburgh.

If you live near Pittsburgh or happen to travel there, you might want to swing by the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. On November 21, the museum unveiled the largest dinosaur mural in the world.

The painting is 180 feet (55 meters) long and an average of 15 feet (4.6 m) tall. It wraps around three of the four walls of the museum's dinosaur halls.

This mural, the largest dinosaur painting in the world, depicts species that lived in the western United States 150 million years ago.

This mural, the largest dinosaur painting in the world, depicts species that lived in the western United States 150 million years ago.

All images courtesy of Walters & Kissinger, LLC.

All the dinosaurs shown in the mural lived about 150 million years ago in the western United States. Scientists have found fossils of each species in layers of rock that stretch from Wyoming to New Mexico. This group of rocks is called the Morrison formation.

The enormous painting is true to life in other ways too. When these dinosaurs were alive, grasses and flowering plants hadn't yet evolved. So, the mural depicts an environment full of trees and ferns. In the background, you can see flying reptiles and a chipmunk-size burrowing mammal called Fruitafossor.

In the foreground are two members of the genus Camptosaurus (shown in the close-up above). These herbivores, or plant eaters, sometimes walked on two legs. Adults could grow longer than 26 feet (8 m), from the tips of their snouts to the tips of their tails.

The mural also features two Stegosauruses (shown above). These stocky, spiky, bus-size creatures ate only plants.

This section of the mural shows an Apatosaurus, one of the largest animals that ever lived on land. Adults averaged 75 feet (23 m) long, and weighed about 25 tons (50,000 pounds). These long, slim dinosaurs were herbivores.

The mural is part of a major expansion of the Carnegie museum's dinosaur halls, says Matt Lamanna, assistant curator of vertebrate paleontology. Two artists who specialize in painting prehistoric scenes, Robert F. Walters and Tess Kissinger, created the huge panorama. They also painted several other new murals at the museum.

Walters remembers seeing the world's second-longest dino mural on a magazine cover when he was 4 years old. That painting is 110 feet long and 16 feet (4.9 m) tall. It is displayed at the Yale Peabody Museum in New Haven, Conn., where artists painted it between 1943 and 1947.

After seeing the Yale mural, Walters knew what he wanted to do when he grew up. Soon, he started drawing dinosaurs. The new mural is his latest accomplishment.

"We've been working on this mural for 2 years," says Walters. "The fact we've painted a record breaker is just starting to sink in."—Emily Sohn

Going Deeper:

Perkins, Sid. 2007. Huge, yet not quite life-size. Science News 172(Nov. 17):308. Available at http://www.sciencenews.org/articles/20071117/fob3.asp .

To watch ongoing renovations of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History's dinosaur exhibits, as well as download time-lapse videos of the reassembly of some of the museum's larger dinosaur skeletons, go to www.carnegiemnh.org/dinosaurs/cam.htm.

To see more images of prehistoric life by Robert F. Walters and Tess Kissinger, go to www.dinoart.com/.

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