The Land Before Texas

When dinos roamed the Lone Star State

The Texas Memorial Museum: A Place Dinosaurs Call Home

By Joy Diaz

If you listen to public radio in your car and your kids are in the backseat, chances are – at some point – they have asked you to change the station. But if you work for public radio, as our Joy Diaz does, there’s simply no touching that dial. So her son started to get creative in order to hear what he wanted to hear.

Fausto Diaz asked a question. “Mom? Why don’t we spice up your work up a bit? Can you ask your work if you can do some radio reports about dinosaurs?” 

“OK. Why not?” was Joy’s reply.

Fausto’s idea isn’t half bad. Because in Texas there are dinosaur stories galore! So, we came up with a new series we’re calling “The Land Before Texas: When Dinosaurs Roamed the Lone Star State.”

And we start with the story of the building that houses many of Texas’ prehistoric treasures.t’s cal Texas Memorial Museum. It sits on the University of Texas at Austin’s main campus. A huge statue of a saber tooth cat is at its entrance.

Tours for school children are common. Around 35,000 kids visit the museum every year. But few know it as intimately as Patrick Pearsal did when he was a kid.

“So, when I was about six, my mom was a grad student doing her post-doc work at UT in engineering. And, so, when I wasn’t in school, I would go to class with her,” Pearsal says.

Six-year-olds normally don’t do very well in post-doctoral classes. But they do perfectly well learning on their own about dinosaurs 

“And so, on any given day, either my mom or one of her lab partners, who basically took turns watching me after school,  would take me over to the museum,” he says.

And that’s where the former six-year-old – now an Austin attorney – would spend hours exploring and dreaming

“And they have – at that point in my life – the best collection of dinosaur bones you could ever hope to see,” Pearsal says. “So, there’s the entry way that has the flying dinosaur where you can stand in the middle and you can see everything.”

And there’s more, one floor down.

“They have – like the Tyrannosaurus Rex hip bone and the ones that look like giant armadillos with the little spiky tails,” Pearsal says.

For Patrick, it was a safe place, a magical place. “And it was air-conditioned”

And it’s a place whose name has always confused people. The Texas Memorial Museum. Why not the Texas Museum of Natural Sciences or something like that? 

Well, because the museum broke ground in 1936, the year of Texas’ 100  th anniversary. The state went all out to celebrate with a world’s fair in Dallas and a groundbreaking ceremony for this museum in Austin. 

President Delano Roosevelt  attended both events.

“My friends of Texas, I have come here today to bear the tribute of the nation – to you on your 100th birthday – for you are 100 years young!”

And so, as a memorial to the state’s history, we got the “Texas Memorial Museum.”

A video was made to document the museum’s construction. The video is so old – the images are grainy and the men look like waddling penguins as they walk. You can see they are busy mixing cement and erecting walls. There’s a reason why this video was taken – it was significant – not only because museums aren’t built every day, but also because the construction came about during the Great Depression. Plus, 1936 was an election year. FDR wanted to be reelected and he needed to show the nation he had been creating jobs.

Today, Pamela Owen is the museum’s associate director. She says beyond political gain, Texas truly needed a place for all its treasures. Scientists and scholars had been asking for one for decades before it was built.

“People from other educational institutions were coming to the state– specially in the field of paleontology – but coming and collecting fossils from Texas’ lands and then they were going on exhibits on East Coast museums,” Owen says. “And Texas [was like] ‘oh, why don’t we have our own museum?’” 

In 1920,  UT Professor F.L. Whitney said, “if a Texas student or professor of geology has need to examine a specimen of Dimetrodon, found only in Texas Permian beds, he would have to visit a museum in Chicago, Michigan, or the East.”

To this day, Texas’ bones and fossils live at places like Harvard and New York’s American Museum of Natural History. But thanks to the construction of the Texas Memorial Museum, many others were able to stay in the state – making the long ago past accessible to all Texans. 

“It’s a way to reach back in time and then to reach forward,” Owen says. “Those are all parts of animals and plants that were once alive.”

The Texas Memorial Museum is a place that, if preserved, will teach future generations about the Land Before Texas – and a time where dinosaurs roamed the Lone Star State.

The Find That Put A Central Texas Town On he Archaeological Map

By Ryan Poppe

Note: This story has been updated throughout to reflect corrections made upon further consultation with Dr. Michael Collins.

 If you're from Houston, you're a Houstonian, in Austin, you're an Austinite. And in the central Texas city of Leander – you could be a Leanderthal? That unfortunate nickname for residents came about because of a misconception related to the findings of an archaeological dig a few decades ba Dr. Michael Collins is a research professor at Texas State University and the chairman of the  Gault School of Archaeological Research. He’s in his 70s, and has done many archeological digs in his career.

He says, you might not know it, but the dirt below your feet is full of insight into what life was like before our time on earth.

“What was the climate like, what were plants and animals that were around, all of these sorts of things,” Collins says. “So when we excavate a site, the dirt has information that we need to recover.”

Take a minute to think about the world the way Collins does. Say you’re standing in your backyard. Collins would tell you the layers of segmented soil beneath you are like a timeline. Each section contains clues about what life was like during those years. And sometimes, those clues can provide a whole a whole window into another world. And that certainly is the case at what’s called the Wilson-Leonard site, just outside of Austin.

Before 1973, the land was part of the Wilson Land and Cattle Company. That year, Collins says archeologists with the Texas Department of Transportation – who were looking to expand a nearby road – uncovered something they weren’t expecting. It was a massive prehistoric campground, dating back 10,000 years. They found spear tips, grinding stones, and over 150 individual fire pits that were commonly used by Native American tribes during the period.

A decade later, in 1983, excavators uncovered the burial remains of a woman.

“There were stone tools, there were fireplace-like features and so forth and so on, it was a pretty normal campsite, but then she was buried in a small pit within that,” Collins says. 

Collins says the team found the remains in a “flexed” or fetal position and placed in what would have been a shallow grave. The remains dated back to the Archaic period, some 8,000 to 10,000 years ago.

Somewhere along the line, the skeletal remains earned the nickname “LeAnne.” The  Williamson County Historical Commission website says it was members of the media who first began to call the remains the “Leanderthal Lady” because of the dig site’s proximity to the city of Leander. This nickname contributed to decades of misinformation about the age of the skeleton and what Collins says is akin to racism against early Native Americans.

Inside the burial pit, archaeologists also uncovered a shark’s tooth the woman possibly wore as a necklace. Archaeologists also found cooking stones – indented rock used to boil water to cook one of the main food staples for Native Americans of the period, camas – the prairie flower that produced a starchy bulb similar to a small sweet potato.

“So they would bake these things and then they pulverized the cooked camas bulbs into a cake, kind of like a hockey puck, highly nutritious. It is the ultimate trail food,” Collins says.

He says the site is an important glimpse into life in North American at the time.

Today, “LeAnne” is a permanent resident of the Texas Archeological Research Laboratory in Austin, or TARL. Associate Facilities Director Jonathan Jarvis says it’s the largest archeological repository in the state.

“So say for example, the Wilson-Leonard site, when TxDOT sponsored excavations of that, that was excavated, studied, reported and all of that was brought here to TARL where we house that basically in perpetuity on behalf of the people of the State of Texas,” Jarvis says.

Jarvis says storing artifacts from the site – and “LeAnne” – in a secure, climate-controlled environment gives generations to come the same opportunity to study the materials taken from the dig site.

2007 article in the Hill Country News follows up on why the land itself where the remains were found is not open to the public or still being explored. The paper reports the original landowner, Will Wilson Sr., wanted to build an interactive museum, and maintain the 2.5-acre site as an archaeological laboratory. He partnered with the nonprofit Archaeological Conservancy on the project, and the paper reports Wilson viewed it as a way to memorialize his late wife.

But the plans went south and the Hill Country News reports Wilson eventually granted the land to his son. The Archaeological Conservancy sued to reclaim the land. Ultimately, they lost in court.

The Wilson-Leonard site has returned to pastureland. If not for markers including one from the Texas Historical Commission, there’d be no indication the archeological dig was ever there. Its discoveries are now housed miles away. Who knows what mysteries still lie under the soil.

Scouring The Skies For Near-Earth Asteroids

Judit Györgyey Ries studies asteroids for a living. That’s simply what one does as a research associate at the McDonald Observatory.

“Asteroids are the small buddies, kind of leftover from the formation of the solar system, which are just going mostly between Jupiter and Mars,” Ries says. “But we have some which we call near-Earth asteroids, and that’s my speciality.”

Ries says that near-Earth asteroids can come close enough to the planet to hit it. She knows all abou the most famous near-Earth asteroid in history: it was 15 kilometers in size and wiped out the dinosaurs.

“We today do not worry about dinosaur-killer asteroids,” Ries says. “There is nothing on our radar which says something will come in the near future.”

While that is true, Ries notes that just 110 years ago, an asteroid devastated a marsh in Siberia. We’ll never know the number of casualties from this event. At least not the human ones.

“I’m pretty sure the animals were not so lucky,” Ries says. “So, asteroids can actually create quite a havoc.”

The destruction wrought by an asteroid doesn’t just come from the impact. Ries says that asteroids can create winds five to six times stronger than any hurricane and cause forest fires by launching molten rocks.

“So, it can do damage,” Ries says.

Ries looks for new asteroids that are 140 meters or longer. So far, she says there are 700,000 to 800,000 known asteroids.

“If you give me a time in the past or in the future, I can tell you with some precision where to find it,” Ries says. “That’s what it means to know an asteroid.”

Written by Kevin Wheeler.

The Asteroid That Ended It All. Well, Most Of It.

It was 66 million years ago that the state of the Earth changed dramatically, all because of one asteroid – a really, really fast asteroid.

Sean Gulick, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin, “explores the world” as he puts it. He’s a member of the Department of Geosciences. Recently he’s been studying the Chicxulub impact crater.

Chicxulub is the asteroid that ultimately killed the dinosaurs and 75 percent of life on Earth. It’s impact created a wide, flat crater that was almost twice as large as the distance from Austin to Houston. This crater is perfectly preserved beneath the sea floor, and the  land of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, making it ideal to be studied.

“Texas was in a fascinating location. We were just across the ocean and that means that the dinosaurs here would’ve felt the blast wave from the impact,” Gulick says. “Probaby many of the dinosaurs, especially in southern Texas, would’ve been instantly killed by that blastwave coming across the ocean.”

That’s because this asteroid was travelling at an incredible speed. Its impact was equal to 10 billion nuclear bombs. That collision set off a multitude of effects: earthquakes, a tsunami far higher than those created by plate shifting, a gaseous atmospheric change that lead to years of freezing and the eventual collapse of the food chain.

Written by Sarah Yoakley.

How Barney Became Texas' Most Popular Dinosaur

By Joy Diaz

Dinosaur names are sometimes a challenge to pronounce. But there’s one Texas dinosaur whose name will probably just roll right off your tongue. His name is Barney.

Barney is a dinosaur from the imagination – and desperation – of Dallas-native Sheryl Leach. Back in the late 1980s, when her son Patrick was two years old, Leach struggled to keep him entertained.

“Two-year-olds are the most powerful entity on the planet,” Leach said.

The kid was running Leach ragged! Until “I found a video out of the market called 'We Sing Together' and Patrick just loved it.”

But only for a little while. Two-year-old Patrick wanted more singing and more dancing and Leach just couldn’t find more videos that did the trick. She figured if she couldn’t find anything in Dallas, Texas, it was likely other parents around the country were struggling too. So, she decided to fill in the void herself with an original singing and dancing show for kids.

“The birth is the idea of ‘how hard could it be?’”

Turns out it was really hard, but not impossible. And despite the challenges of recording videos featuring lots of kids and a giant purple dinosaur, PBS took the show when Leach offered it.

Just four years later, Barney became the number one toy on kids’ Christmas lists. In a 1992 interview, the president of the Children’s Division at JC Penney, Henry Scott, said he couldn’t keep enough Barney merchandise on the shelves.

“I’ve been in this business for 36 years, the retail business, and I’ve lived through E.T., I’ve lived through Cabbage Patch, I’ve lived through Land Before Time – but I have never seen a phenomenon such as Barney – we are Barney-mania here at JC Penney,” Scott said.

The grownups couldn’t explain it. The kids couldn’t either, but their faces said it all.

During a 1994, live performance in New York City, Barney took his time coming out onstage. And when he did, it was like Beatle-mania!

Back in Dallas, Barney creator Sheryl Leach believes Barney was such a hit because, as a former educator, she wanted to make the show good – good fun, good manners, educational and full of diversity.

From the very first season, the cast included children with different abilities, with different skin colors and who spoke different languages. You may remember a young Selena Gomez or Demi Lovato singing in Spanish.

Leach’s parents were also educators. They taught her early that growing up in Texas meant learning about Mexico and other cultures.

“And we went back and forth almost yearly, I think, to Mexico. And so that was instilled in me as a very young thing,” Leach said.

Barney also did shows about Canada, our neighbor to the North, but also about Italy, Germany, Scotland, Israel, Africa, China, South Korea and Brazil – many of the cultures represented right here in Texas.

With all that exploration, it seems Barney yearned to try a place outside of the Lone Star State. In 2001, the show moved to the U.K. HIT Entertainment purchased the business for $275 million.

The public didn’t understand this either – Barney was still a success, so why sell?

“It was really the point that I felt satisfecha, you know? I really felt satisfied. And I also wanted to do other things. So, I felt that – if I thought about Barney as a child – at that point – that Barney was in college,” she said.

Barney is probably the only Texas dinosaur that went to college!
But like all other Texas dinos, Barney went extinct. The show’s last episode taped almost a decade ago, in September of 2009. But its legacy of inclusivity lives on. After all, the lyrics to the show’s most recognizable song says “I love you, you love me….”

And to Sheryl Leach, that’s what Texas is – a family that can come together through singing, dancing and understanding of each other.

The Armadillo's Texas Roots Reach Back To Ancient Times

On these warm summer nights, I see them often as I drive home on FM 803. They sometimes stop, frozen for a few seconds, their eyes reflecting my headlights in an eerie red – and then they dash off into giant clumps of prickly pear, where predators can’t follow.

The Spaniards named them armadillos – “the little armored ones.” It was a term of affection and all who have lived in this land called Texas ever since have been fond of them. To me, they are the small animal version of an armored-up Humvee. And they are truly armored. A man in east Texas shot one with a .38 caliber pistol and the bullet ricocheted off the armadillo’s thick plating and hit the man in the face. He recovered. The armadillo could not be found.

They are impressive survivors. In fact, in the land before Texas, four million years ago, their distant relatives roamed the earth. The original armadillos, called glyptodons, reached a weight of two tons, about the size of a white rhino. Plus, they had club-like spiky tails. If they were running around Texas today, we wouldn’t have roadkill, we’d have car kill. We’d call them armadigantes – armored giants. We’d need thick steel fences for them, probably electrified like those in the original Jurassic Park movie. Not sure you’d want to go home with the armadillo in such circumstances.

Speaking of Jurassic Park, scientists, perhaps inspired by a scene from that film, compared the fossil remains of ancient glyptodons, to our modern armadillos. In 2016, two geneticists analyzed the ancient DNA of a glyptodon, comparing it with that of modern armadillos and found evidence that they are directly related. Why the original was so large or why its descendants became miniaturized is an unsolved mystery.

In Texas, the nine-banded armadillo is the most common, and down in South America they have what we now call “giant armadillos.” But they’re only six feet long if you include the tail, and weigh 70 pounds. Still, if I saw one of those around here, I think I would go the other way.

At the other end of the scale is the fairy armadillo, also from South America. It is only about four inches long and pink. You could hold it in the palm of your hand. Though our Texas armadillo can’t roll into a perfect ball, like the Brazilian three-banded one, it does have this special ability: the females give birth to four identical quadruplets every time, producing as many as 16 pups in a lifetime. Bet they’re glad they don’t have to send them all to college.

The Texas armadillo – the nine-banded one – has certainly worked its way into iconic status here. There are armadillo t-shirts, tattoos galore, armadillo lamps (no armadillos hurt in the making of the lamps), armadillo campers and trailers and armadillo restaurants that don’t serve armadillo. However, during the Great Depression, an era many blamed on President Herbert Hoover, food was scarce, and many people in Texas hunted and ate armadillos, calling them “poor man’s pork” or “Hoover hogs.” Later on, people blamed leprosy in Texas on armadillo meat.

No doubt, the best-known armadillo business, open from 1970-1980, was the Armadillo World Headquarters in Austin. The nightclub was named after the armadillo in order to commemorate the fact that it was located in the old National Guard Armory. Though long out of business, the Armadillo World Headquarters helped lay the foundation for the world-class live music scene that thrives in Austin today.

To properly honor all the positive influences of the armadillo’s mystique in Texas, the 1995 legislature declared the nine-banded armadillo the official State Small Mammal of Texas. The law reads in part:

WHEREAS: ...The armadillo, is a hardy, pioneering creature that chose to begin migrating here at about the time that Texas became a state; and

WHEREAS: The armadillo possesses many remarkable and unique traits, some of which parallel the attributes that distinguish a true Texan, such as a deep respect and need for the land, the ability to change and adapt, and a fierce undying love for freedom; and;

WHEREAS: [The armadillo is] a proud and indomitable as the state from which it hails.

RESOLVED: That the 74th Legislature of the State of Texas hereby . . . designate(s) the armadillo as the official Small State Mammal of Texas.

The Texas Longhorn was made the Official Large State Mammal in the same legislation.

And then we also have the unofficial honoring of the little armored ones in a famous song written by Gary P. Nunn. So the Armadillo is distinguished by legislation, protected by law, and immortalized in song. Is Texas a great country or what?

Kids Share Their Best (And Worst) Dinosaur Jokes

Grady Hicks loves dinosaurs. From stegosauruses to “Jurassic Park,” he Austin-native fifth-grader knows all that there is to know about our prehistoric friends. He knows so much that he was willing to share some of his favorite dinosaur jokes with Texas Standard.

Like for instance:

What do you get when you mix dinosaurs with pigs?

What type of dinosaur would Harry Potter be?

Shayna is in the fifth grade and is new to Texas. Her family recently move to Austin from California.

Here’s an example of her prehistoric humor:

What do dinosaurs use to make their hot dogs?

What is a dinosaurs least favorite reindeer?

Listen in the player above for the punchlines.

How Jurassic Park Helped Inspire A Generation Of Paleontologists

By Rachel Osier Lindley & Laura Rice

With its latest iteration, “The Fallen Kingdom,” the Jurassic Park movie franchise seems far from extinct. But 25 years ago, moviegoers had never seen anything quite like those Jurassic dinosaurs onscreen. The movie captured the imagination of a generation of kids—some of them graduating into paleontology as adults.

And what we know about dinosaurs has changed dramatically since 1993, says University of Edinburgh Paleontologist Steve Brusatte. He is the author of the recently-released bestseller "The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of the Lost World."

Brusette saw “Jurassic Park” in the theater as a child, and has now named more than 15 new species of dinosaurs.

"I do remember seeing the film when I was nine years-old, back in 1993, just the spectacle of the summer blockbuster, and seeing these dinosaurs onscreen,” he says. “And this was such a new view of dinosaurs, so different from their image in all the textbooks and library books that I had in school. You know, it blew me away. It's amazing because there's many people like me out there, people that saw the film when we were young, and it motivated us in one way or another to become paleontologists. It just inspires us so much, it got us so enthused about these fantastic animals, that we dedicated our lives to it.”

He says there’s a straight line between the movie and today’s dinosaur science.

“And this is why, now, 25 years later, we're in the middle of this most exciting time in the entire history of dinosaur research, because there are more people than even before going out, looking for dinosaur bones all around the world,” he says.

Scientists are now discovering approximately 50 new species of dinosaur per year, and have been for a decade.

"It's wild, isn't it?” Brusette says. “I mean, that number sounds make believe, it sounds like it's impossible, right, that once a week somebody's finding a new dinosaur but it's absolutely true... And so we are right in the middle of this very exciting time of discovery.”

Another reason for the explosion of discoveries is that many countries are expanding their paleontological research.

“So many of the most important new discoveries are coming from places like China and Argentina and Brazil, these enormous countries that are opening up to the world, that are developing, that are building their own universities, their own museums, and are training their own young scientists who are going out and looking for dinosaurs."

At the same time, technology has been improving rapidly.

“Developments in things like CAT scanning and 3D computer modeling and really high-powered microscopes, those kinds of new tools are helping us to study dinosaurs in ways that we would have thought impossible just a generation ago, and they're giving us new insight into what dinosaurs were actually like as real animals, what they looked like, how they moved, how they ate, how they grew up," Brusette says.

But one thing technology hasn’t changed is how scientists find fossils.

"It's still an old-fashioned game of just going out, and walking around and looking really intensely at the rocks, and looking for fossils that way,” Brusette says.

Thanks to these new discoveries, we do know that there are quite a few historical inaccuracies in the Jurassic Park franchise.

“The biggest one of all really is that the dinosaurs still, in the new film, are shown as these green, scaly overgrown lizard-type of animals,” Brusette says. “And in reality, we now know that a lot of dinosaurs had feathers. And dinosaurs were much more like birds in the way they behaved, but also the way they looked. And that wasn't actually known back in 1993 when the first film came out. It was only a few years later that the very first feather-covered dinosaur fossil was found in China. But now, 25 years later, we know that so many dinosaurs had feathers."

But that doesn’t prevent Brusette from continuing to love the film, or from recognizing its power.

"You know, I love the Jurassic Park films,” he says, “especially the first one, and I think it was the most important thing that ever happened to paleontology, because it made dinosaurs into these pop culture superstars.”

Written by Rachel Taube.

Who Had A Head Five Feet Long, And Ate Everything? Deinosuchus Riograndensis.

By Carlos Morales

When you walk into the Fossil exhibit at Big Bend National Park, you’ll quickly spot a giant skull. It’s about five feet long, posed with jaws wide open. And it’s been completely bronzed.

This late cretaceous-era cranium belongs to an ancient predator called deinosuchus riograndensis.

I meet Big Bend visitor Misty Benham, staring at the skull too. While Benham hadn’t heard of the ancient creature before, she’s pretty familiar with what paleontologists say are its distant relatives

“Thank god we weren’t alive at the same time," Benham says. "Like I have issues just living in Florida and the size of the alligators that live there and just being impressed that they truly are everywhere. So that, I don’t know If I would want to live in the same time period.”

Deinosuchus puts even your largest Florida gator to shame. If you’ve seen

the 1999 monster movie “Lake Placid,” you know what we’re talking about.

“He was 30 feet right? He had to be.”

“Well, now maybe somebody’s happy I brought my big gun.”

Don Corrick is a geologist at Big Bend National Park.

“That was deinosuchus! Yeah, yes. There’s some Hollywood to it of course. But yeah they’re using deinosuchus in that movie," he says.

He says, yeah, the movie is over-the-top...but it actually undersold the size of deinosuchus.

“It would be the top predator in the ancient swamps of big bend. It’d be 39, 40 feet long, 16,000 pounds,” Corrick says.

The remains of bus-sized deinosuchus have been found in several states that were once underwater – places like Utah and Wyoming. And, of course, Texas’ Big Bend region, where we head out into the field.

In his olive-green National Park uniform, Corrick stands in what he says used to be an estuary. It’s now a dusty, open field, littered with native shrubs and what look like milky-colored rocks, worn over time. These are fossils, Corrick says.

“And as you walk along that’s what you find, the crumbs of ancient life...."

He spots something. “There’s a deinosuchus tooth. This is kind of a smaller one,” Corrick says.

He slowly picks up the the chipped tooth and places it in the palm of his hand. He turns it over, analyzing it. He thinks it was probably from the front of the creature’s mouth, where its teeth were long and were used to catch prey. Towards the back of its jaw, the teeth were blunt --

built for crushing. Paleontologists estimate that deinosuchus’ bite packed more force than that of a t-rex.

Paleontologist David Schwimmer – yeah, like the actor who played a paleontologist on

"Friends" – says their diet was varied.

“Apparently it ate anything. From turtles to dinosaurs,” Schwimmer says.

Schwimmer has studied deinosuchus for three decades. He says the giant crocodylian was an indiscriminate predator – most likely approaching the shore slowly, nearly invisible to its would-be prey. And then, in the blink of an eye, it’d thrust out of the water and chomp down on nearby critters.

“We call this opportunistic eating," Schwimmer says. "You figure when you’re a seven-ton, 40-foot animal you can eat whatever you want.”

Schwimmer says that besides teeth, the other thing that really sets deinosuchus apart are these things called osteoderms, or scutes – bony plates that covered the creature’s back. On deinosuchus, they were unusually large and lumpy. Schwimmer says they looked like giant, half-baked oatmeal cookies.

“It’s a bone in the skin. It would’ve been biscuit shaped. Kind of oval shaped. And this is what kind of helps give it some sort of structural integrity,” Schwimmer says.

He says, “They’re high and lumpy and irregular. The purpose of the osteoderms – according to one theory, and i think it’s a good one – is to help the animal walk, of all things.”

Back at the deinosuchus exhibit, there’s a painting of the hulking giant. It’s stretching out of the water, squaring off against a tyrannosaur. The larger-than-life scene, the open space -- they’re all kind of the reason why Floridian Misty Brenham made the trek to Big Bend in the first place. She says she just wanted to “...make myself and my journey, make it seem bigger by making myself and my issues in my life smaller if that makes any sense, like adding contrast.”

And there’s no better way to feel small, than standing next to deinosuchus riograndensis, one of the giants that roamed the land before Texas.