The Indricotherium is extreme. So is his neighbor, the Batodonoides vanhouteni. No, they are not extreme because of their weird names. They are extreme because they are the largest and the smallest land mammals to ever walk Earth.
From Saturday until March 23, they (or their likenesses) will take up residence inside the Bullock Texas State History Museum. “Extreme Mammals” is the largest visiting exhibit the museum has housed.
What do fossils, casts and replicas of extreme mammals have to do with Texas history? Well, although organized by the American Museum of Natural History, the California Academy of Sciences, the Cleveland Museum of Natural History and the Canadian Museum of Nature, 24 of the exhibit’s residents once roamed Texas.
The Indricotherium is huge. Standing 15 feet tall and 20 feet wide, it’s about four times the weight of a modern elephant and it kind of looks like an elephant or a rhinoceros, but with no horns, tusks or trunk. Kids will want to climb all over him, but he’s not to be messed with. Maybe it was children’s cooties that made this plant-eater go extinct about 23 million years ago.
Batodonoides vanhouteni is protected by glass, but you’ll have to look close to see this tiny rodent. He weighs about as much as a dollar bill and hasn’t been crawling around since about 42 million years ago.
A visit to these two mammals begins your journey of extremes. You’ll find the oldest fossil of a primate, the Darwinius masillae. You’ll see mammals like the Uintatherium robustum, which has some wickedly wild headgear it toted around about 40 million years ago.
And for kids who might think they have a big nose, check out the Macrauchenia patagonica. His nose went way past his lips, with a body that might have evolved into a future hoofed animal.
While much of the exhibit is look-don’t-touch, kids can have fun trying things out. They can look into a mirror with the outline of an average person and decide if they are extreme or not. My guess is they just might be.
In another part of the exhibit, they can look in a mirror and put their face in the face of different mammals and see what those mammals’ teeth will look like on their human face.
They also can touch the tooth of a mammoth and the shell of a glyptodont and they can crawl under the glyptodont’s shell. Kids can try to move like different animals in an interactive exhibit.
If you thought this was only about the furry, a cast of 3.2-million-year-old Lucy’s pelvis is also on display. She was an early human-like creature that walked upright. But if you’re into furry, there’s also 10,000-year-old mammoth hair to behold.
At the end of the exhibit, you can learn about recent history, from the extinction of the Tasmanian wolf in 1936 to the recent discovery of a new sengi that lives in the mountains of Tanzania.
The museum is planning many themed events while the exhibit is running and on certain days, learning carts will be in the exhibit with more things to touch and examine.
For opening day on Saturday, you can make your own pet mammal, play mammal trivia and find other free activities from noon to 3 p.m. On Dec. 7 from noon to 3, Girlstart will bring mammal science to the museum. Austin’s favorite mammals will take over on Dec. 14 from noon to 3 with dog-related games, information booths and and arts and crafts.
When: Saturday-March 23; special opening day activities noon to 3 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Bullock Texas State History Museum, 1800 N. Congress Ave.
Tickets: Free with admission to the museum, $12 adults, $8 children ages 4-17, $10 students, seniors and military
Information: 512-936-4649, thestoryoftexas.com.