HMNS Fun Facts

January 20, 2017

Morian Hall of Paleontology

The Morian Hall of Paleontology is packed with prehistoric beasts, and does not have the same stagnant displays of ancient skeletons standing in a row that many visitors are accustomed to seeing. Rather, the predators and prey in the new paleontology hall are in action—chasing, eating and escaping as they struggle for life.

  • Embark on a “prehistoric safari” that also includes the grand saga of human evolution—from tree-climbing australopithecines to courageous mammoth-hunters.
  • The new hall features:
    • More than 60 new, major mounts, featuring more than 30 dinosaurs as well as large mammals
    • An all-bone T.rex featuring the best preserved and most complete hands and feet of any T.rex ever found, as well as patches of original skin—the likes of which have never before been seen
    • Touchable specimens, including real, fossilized dinosaur skin, that allow you to pet a dinosaur
    • A virtual, ancient aquarium, where fossils will come to life
    • A nesting site for a  Quetzalcoatlus  family—ancient pterosaurs with 30-foot wingspans—bigger than a modern jet fighter
    • Fossils brought to life through original art
    • A 12-foot wide, reconstructed jaw of a Megalodon, a marine monster that was largest shark that ever lived, poised in the act of ambushing a swimming, extinct elephant
    • One of the world’s most spectacular collections of gem-quality petrified wood, with some sections up to 8 ft wide
    • A “Left-Behind” display, one of the finest collections of petrified poop, proof positive of prehistoric diets
    • A uniquely well-preserved Triceratops, “mummified” with preserved skin
    • A 10-foot, fleshed-out model of a Dimetrodon presented alongside the Museum’s newest Dimetrodon fossil, “Willie”
    • 100+ exquisitely preserved marine Trilobites
    • And much more!
  • The Morian Hall of Paleontology contains more than 450 fossils and casts, including the only mounted Diplodocus hayi species in the world, providing a vivid glimpse into the incredible 3.5-billion-year story of life on Earth.
  • Hypselosaurus priscus, which is related to the Diplodocus, had some of the largest known dinosaur eggs, measuring from 10 to 12 inches long. A fossilized nest filled with these eggs is on display.
  • It is said that everything is bigger in Texas.
    • The Hall of Paleontology houses a cast of the largest flying reptile in the world, Quetzalcoatlus, which is from the Big Bend area of the state. Quetzalcoatlus’ wingspan is between 36 and 39 feet.
    • The hall also houses the fossilized remains of a giant armadillo. Recovered from Houston’s own Brays Bayou, the giant armadillo was over six feet long.

Cullen Hall of Gems and Minerals 

  • The Cullen Hall of Gems and Minerals houses one of the finest gem and mineral displays in the world, which includes more than 750 beautifully crystallized mineral specimens, including some of the rarest and most stunning examples on Earth.
  • Due to its sculptural composition and aesthetic beauty, The Alma Queen, a brilliant, red rhodochrosite on display in this hall, is one of the most famous specimens in mineralogy. It has attained legendary status as the “Mona Lisa” of the mineral world.
  • This spectacular hall also has the largest natural imperial topaz crystal and the Dragon, the finest example of crystalline gold.

Lester and Sue Smith Gem Vault 

  • This gallery houses a 1,869-carat emerald crystal. Considered by many to be the finest in the world, the emerald is the largest ever to be recovered in North America.
  • The world’s finest aquamarine, which was mined in 1938 and disappeared from history for decades, is on display.
  • Popularly thought to be extremely rare, diamonds are actually fairly common. Truly rare gems—like the sphene, kunzite, citrine, spodumene and Tsavorite garnet on display—are much more exceptional.
  • Many well-known gems on display in this hall—like the aquamarine and emerald—are actually color variations of the same mineral—beryl.

Strake Hall of Malacology 

  • The largest snail shell in the world, which has been featured in the Guinness Book of World Records, is on display.  The shell is 30 inches long—more than 21 times the size of a common garden snail shell.
  • In addition to oysters, any mollusk that makes a shell can create a pearl, as it is a natural reaction to an irritant, such as sand or a parasite. Freshwater mussels, for example, often make pearls. This hall houses many of these natural jewelers.
  • Busycon perversum pulleyi, whose shell can be found in this hall, was named Texas’ official state mollusk in 1987. These snails grow from a few millimeters to over two feet in length.
  • Female cuttlefish coat their eggs with an ink made from melanin—the same pigment that colors human hair and skin. Scientists believe that cuttlefish do this to protect their eggs from harmful UV rays—the same function melanin serves in humans.  The Strake Hall of Malacology houses two live cuttlefish.

Wiess Energy Hall

  • Regarded as the most sophisticated and comprehensive energy exhibit in the world, the Wiess Energy Hall explores the application of scientific concepts and advanced technology in the oil and gas industry.
  • Designers and exhibit developers from South Korea, China, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Kazakhstan, the Netherlands, Norway, Argentina, and Australia have visited the exhibit, seeking to emulate various aspects for similar projects in their countries.
  • Fossil fuels have only been in use for about 200 years. Many energy sources that are considered alternative today—such as wind and water power—were the primary source of energy for millennia of human history. Explore these other energy sources in the Alternative Energy section of the exhibit.
  • Take a 7,285-foot wild ride to the bottom of a modern well in the Geovator, and see what happens after the well is drilled. Then, surf the oil gusher back to the top.

John P. McGovern Hall of the Americas

  • Alaskan Inuits kept dry with a parka made from seal intestines, an example of which can be seen in the Hall of the Americas.
  • Similar to European coats of arms, indigenous people from the Americas who shared a common ancestor often inherited exclusive rights to depict certain animal crests on their clothing, dancing blankets, and other ceremonial regalia. The Museum has a multitude of fine pieces that these remarkable cultures have made.
  • The Amazonian feather art on display, from the collection of Adam Mekler, is considered among the best in the world. While the museum takes great care preserving these objects, it is interesting to know that the creators often simply discarded them once their ceremonial purpose was completed.

Evelyn & Herbert Frensley Hall of African Wildlife

Graham Family Presentation of Ecology & Conservation Biomes 

  • The Hall of African Wildlife focuses on well-integrated themes of African wildlife ecology and conservation, with over 120 specimens representing more than 70 species on display, including 42 species of birds and 28 species of mammals.
  • Though totally authentic, the animals in this hall were not harmed in any way for display purposes.
  • Gaboon vipers, one of which can be found in this hall, have the largest fangs of any snake in the world.
  • Some of the largest reptiles on earth, Nile crocodiles sometimes cooperate to get food by forming a line across a flowing stream, thus forcing fish to pass within striking distance of at least one hungry mouth. The Hall of African Wildlife allows visitors to see an example of these extraordinary animals up close.

Farish Hall of Texas Wildlife 

  • The Hall of Texas Wildlife features seven realistic displays of alligators, river otters, mountain lions, and other animals that can be found in Texas, as well as some that have vanished over time. Others are rare or endangered, such as the Red Wolf and the Whooping Crane.
  • TheMarshSwampshows more than 28 different native birds, animals, and reptiles in their natural environment.
  • Mexican Free-Tailed Bats, Tadarida brasiliensis, raise their young in Texas caves during the summer before returning to Mexico. The nutrient-rich guano they produce abundantly while there provides the foundation of the cave ecosystem’s food chain. See examples of these bats in their natural habitat in the Hall of Texas Wildlife.


Expedition Center

  • The Expedition Center was created to honor the astronauts who died in the Space Shuttle Challenger tragedy of 1986. At the center, kids can take a virtual voyage to the Moon and Mars.
  • The Houston Museum of Natural Science now has two Expedition Centers, one at the Museum and one at the George Observatory, located in Brazos Bend State Park.

The Cockrell Butterfly Center 

  • While most of the flora in the Butterfly Center is from Latin America, many of the plants can be grown easily here in Houston gardens in order to attract these delicate insects.
  • The center is home to 1,500 live butterflies. Visitors will typically see 50 to 60 different species of the world’s largest and most colorful butterflies.
  • Butterflies are able to taste with their feet and smell with their antennae.
  • The Atlas Moth, which can be found in the Center, is among the largest moths in the world. Females can have a 12-inch wingspan. The Atlas Moth only lives for one day and does not eat; all of its energy comes from the chrysalis.

Brown Hall of Entomology 

  • In this hall, visitors can observe the process of metamorphosis as butterflies emerge from the chrysalises.
  • It is estimated that there are over 30 million insect species in the world, and only one million have been described by scientists so far.  The Brown Hall of Entomology houses many varieties of insects and other bugs, including the Goliath Birdeater Tarantula. This spider eats insects, mice, frogs, and even snakes. Females can grow up to 12 inches across.
  • Insects were here before the dinosaurs. Evidence suggests they have been on Earth for at least 250 million years. Cockroaches and dragonflies are two ancient insects that are still common today.
  • Humans could not live without insects; they pollinate plants that provide us with food, break down refuse like decaying vegetation and animal carcasses, and provide food for many animals, like birds and fish.


Earth Forum 

  • 22 software components and 11 interrelated work stations focus on different areas of dynamic and gradual change on the Earth, with themes ranging from Human Population to Air Pollution.
  • Active models show how environmental phenomena occur. A sand dune maker, for example, uses a pivoting fan to create winds that shape and reshape dunes in the sand.

Burke Baker Planetarium

  • The dome theater of the planetarium offers the world’s most technologically advanced and realistic views of space and the universe, allowing visitors to experience the wonders of space while still on earth.
  • The dome theatre is also used to train NASA astronauts in identifying star fields.
  • Since 1964, this facility has presented astronomical programs to millions of visitors including school groups and the general public.

The George Observatory 

  • The George Observatory is a satellite facility of the Houston Museum of Natural Science, located in Brazos Bend State Park.
  • The observatory features the 10-ton, 36-inch Gueymard telescope, one of the largest telescopes in the country available for public viewing. The telescope was dedicated in 1969, the year humans first landed on the moon.
  • Recently mounted on the Gueymard telescope, the 11-inch, 14-foot Engebretson refractor is the largest of its type open to the public in Texas.
  • Depending on the time of the year, visitors can observe a variety of phenomena, such as Saturn’s rings, cloud belts on Jupiter, a partial or total eclipse of the Moon, a bright meteor or fireball that lights up the ground, the Milky Way, or a close pairing of two planets.
Wortham Giant Screen Theatre
  • The Wortham Giant Screen Theatre can hold up to 394 patrons.
  • The theatre features the latest in state-of-the-art motion picture projection. The 24-year old theatre recently upgraded from IMAX 70mm film projection to stunning 4K digital with advanced 3D technology. Projected images are of unsurpassed size, clarity and impact, and are enhanced by a superb six-track sound system.
  • The screen size in the theatre measures a whopping 80’ wide by 6 stories tall.

The Houston Museum of Natural Science

One of the nation's most heavily attended museums-is a centerpiece of the Houston Museum District. With four floors of permanent exhibit halls, and the Wortham Giant Screen Theatre, Cockrell Butterfly Center, Burke Baker Planetarium, and George Observatory, and as host to world-class and ever-changing touring exhibitions, the Museum has something to delight every age group. With such diverse and extraordinary offerings, a trip to the Houston Museum of Natural Science, located at 5555 Hermann Park Drive in the heart of the Museum District, is always an adventure.


Media Information Sami Mesarwi Melodie Wade

Our Mission

The mission of the Houston Museum of Natural Science shall be to preserve and advance the general knowledge of natural science; to enhance in individuals the knowledge of and delight in natural science and related subjects; and to maintain and promote a museum of the first class.

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