Winny Saur is the Australian Museums very own resident life sized dinosaur puppet.
The puppet’s appearance and size is based on a 3-year-old juvenile Muttaburrasaurus. She lives in the Dinosaur gallery, Level 2.
Winny’s lifelike appearance, movement and sound entices all museum visitors to interact and engage with her and the Dinosaur exhibition for a unforgettable experience as well as develop an active interest in the history of animals on our planet.
Winny is on facebook – become her friend here: http://www.facebook.com/winnysaur
Making the puppet
The puppet was created by ERTH Visual and Physical Inc, a Sydney-based company specialising in live theatre and puppetry. The Australian Museum Dinosaur Exhibition Project Team worked alongside ERTH to create a realistic and scientifically accurate juvenile Muttaburrasaurus. The puppet’s appearance and size is based on a 3-year-old dinosaur from this genus. Delivered March 2008, construction began 2007
We chose Muttaburrasaurus for a number of reasons:
• we have compete cast of this genus on display
• it is an iconic Australian dinosaur
• we have an opalised scapula on display in the Lightning Ridge section
• This herbivorous Australian dinosaur roamed the temperate floodplains and river system of western Queensland and New South Wales over 110 million years ago.
A new name
We named her Winny after running a competition in the January 2009 school holidays. This name, picked from thousands, was suggested by Sarah McCabe who said ‘it was short for Winton, a famous dinosaur fossil site in Queensland and because she is such a winner.’ We also thought it suitable as she is known to make a noise that sounds just like a ‘winny’.
There was a lot we needed to know about this species of dinosaur in order to care for Winny. Some details we were told by palaeontologists and others we have had to work out as we go along.
Just before Winny’s first birthday - she had more than quadrupled in size from when she hatched. The reason she grows so fast is so she can protect herself from predators.
When her sort of dinosaur (Muttaburrasaurus) lived in Australia during the Cretaceous period, 110 million years ago, it was warm and had inland seas so there were plenty of fruiting plants and conifers at that time and so we knew enough from our palaeontologists about what to try and feed her.
She is a herbivore. Our Palaeontologists have told us that Muttaburrasaurus seems to have replaced their teeth all at once rather than one at a time. They created a continuous shearing surface rather than a grinding one.
Her teeth are designed for eating tough vegetation that other dinosaurs found difficult to digest, such as cycads, club mosses, ferns and pod-o-carps which would have been very hard to chew up so they could be swallowed. These plants would have been all over Australia at the time herds of Muttaburrasaurus lived. She has a huge digestive tract capable of extracting nutrients from even the sharp poisonous leave of the cycads. Since she can could do this, and other dinosaurs couldn’t, she would always have food even when other sorts of plants ran out or were hard to find – therefore less competition from other herbivores.
Nose and sense of smell
She has an unusual wide, low skull with a hollow chamber on top her snout. It means she can make lots of noises particularly a honking sound. The snout or nose of Muttaburrasaurus is quite large and fleshy. Perhaps the snout of the Muttaburrasaurus enabled it to live in difficult environments – warming the colder air before breathing it in winter and removing dust particles in summer.
She spends most of her time on all fours but she can raise herself up onto her hind legs to access a wider variety of plants or to run fast from predators and she seems to like doing that when she is walking around the museum.
Quick facts about the Muttaburrasaurus:
• Fossils were first found in Queensland on Rosebury Downs station beside the Thompson River near the town of Muttaburra in 1963, providing the genus name Muttaburrasaurus.
• Muttaburrasaurus is one of the most widespread dinosaurs known in Australia.
• Muttaburrasaurus is a herbivore.
• Muttaburrasaurus can walk on two and four legs. It could rise up onto its hind legs to feed or to run fast from predators.
• Fossils from Queensland date to 112–100 million years old. Those from Lightning Ridge, New South Wales, are about 110 million years old.
• Adults would reach between 7–9 metres in length; this juvenile is about 4.8 metres long.
Melissa Murray , Interpretive Officer