Huge blue whale skeleton puts Dippy the Diplodocus out of a job

London CNN  — 

Sorry Dippy, but your days of scaring the bejesus out of millions of school kids are nearly over.

After 35 years of service, the huge skeleton of a Diplodocus is being retired from its leading role at London’s Natural History Museum, to be replaced by the equally hulking bones of a blue whale.

Looming over the museum’s central atrium, Hintze Hall, Dippy the Diplodocus has rendered generations of young visitors awestruck.

It’s also taken starring roles in movies including the recently released “Paddington,” and the 1975 Disney classic “One of Our Dinosaurs is Missing.”

The 292-bone skeleton is actually a replica, cast from fossils unearthed by railroad workers in Wyoming in 1898.

Now the museum wants to substitute it with a genuine skeleton from its own collection; that of an even bigger creature – the blue whale.

“As the largest known animal to have ever lived on Earth, the story of the blue whale reminds us of the scale of our responsibility to the planet,” says the museum’s director, Michael Dixon.

Skeleton switcheroo

“This makes it the perfect choice of specimen to welcome and capture the imagination of our visitors, as well as marking a major transformation of the Museum.”

The skeleton switcheroo isn’t a speedy process. Work to install the whale won’t be completed until the summer of 2017.

The 25.2-meter female whale has been part of the museum’s collection since 1891 after it was found beached and injured off the southeast coast of Ireland.

It’s bones, bought for £250, have previously been displayed in the museum’s Mammal Hall, suspended over a life-size model of a blue whale.

Dixon says that bumping Dippy from its top slot was “an important and necessary change” that would highlight the plight of a species under threat from mankind.

“The blue whale serves as a poignant reminder that while abundance is no guarantee of survival, through our choices, we can make a real difference,” he adds.

“There is hope.”

The museum, which gets five million visitors a year, says it’s “exploring how the Diplodocus cast can be enjoyed by an even wider audience longer term.”

So, Dippy isn’t heading for the bone yard just yet.

National History Museum, Cromwell Road, London; +44 20 7942 5000