Meet Dippy the Diplodocus

The world’s most famous dinosaur

By Google Arts & Culture

LongneckSenckenberg Nature Museum Frankfurt

The unofficial mascot of London’s Natural History Museum, the Carnegie Museum of Natural History and other museums around the globe, Dippy the Diplodocus is, without doubt, the world’s most famous dinosaur. 

Diplodocus carnegiiThe Natural History Museum

Dating back around 150 million years, the skeleton has been on display in more places than any other sauropod dinosaur. Dippy is made up of 292 individual bones and is the most complete example of his species. 

When he was alive, Dippy would have roamed the hills and plains of what is now the USA and parts of Canada, eating ferns, trees and bushes as he went. 

LIFE Photo Collection

Dippy’s Discovery

Dippy was first discovered in Wyoming in 1899. The expedition that uncovered its bones was financed by millionaire industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. As a result, the newly unearthed species was named Diplodocus carnegii.

LIFE Photo Collection

Diplodocus dinosaurs are thought to have lived in what is now mid-western North America at the end of the Jurassic Period. That’s around 156 to 145 million years ago. Herbivores, Diplodocus dinosaurs could grow up to 32m in length. Dippy however, measures in at ‘just’ 26m.

London’s Natural History Museum

A few years after Dippy’s discovery, King Edward VII spotted drawings of its skeleton when visiting Carnegie’s Scottish castle. Carnegie offered to send a cast of the skeleton to The Natural History Museum as a gift, shipping Dippy to London in 1905. 

Assembling Diplodocus forelimb, 1916 by Anderson, A. E.American Museum of Natural History

Dippy’s arrival in London caused a real stir

The cast opened to the public on 12th May 1905 and was an instant hit with visitors to the Natural History Museum. Aside from a brief stay in the basement during the Second World War, it remained on display at the museum until it went on tour in 2017. 

Students ponder T. Rex at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History (1951) by Samuel A. MusgraveOriginal Source: Detre Library & Archives at the Heinz History Center

The Original Dippy

The skeleton that Dippy was cast from is at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The museum is home to the world’s largest collection of Jurassic dinosaurs and, alongside Dippy, visitors can see the world’s first specimen of a Tyrannosaurus rex.

Sauropod dinosaur (composite)Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Experts now believe that Diplodocus dinosaurs could whip their tails at supersonic speeds to create a canon-like boom. This may have been used to attract a mate or as a form of communication. 

Scientists also think Diplodocus dinosaurs were able to replace lost teeth within an incredible 35 days. This would have made them perfectly adapted to eating a variety of vegetation in their native habitat. 

A Dozen Dippys

Dippy is the most complete skeleton of his kind ever discovered. His impressive proportions and fascinating features resulted in a huge amount of interest from museums around the world. Within a few years, casts had been sent to Berlin, Paris, Vienna, Bologna and St Petersburg. 

Diplodocus carnegii as seen in the Jurascope (Video)Museum für Naturkunde Berlin

By the end of the 20th century, additional casts were on display in Buenos Aires, Madrid, Mexico City, Munich and Utah. Bringing the grand total of Dippys to a dozen. 

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