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Monday, 21 February, 2011 6:31 PM

'Dinosaurs Unearthed' is now open at the Detroit Science Center

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

Animatronic dinosaurs inside the Detroit Science Center for the new "Dinosaurs Unearthed" exhibit.

by Jason Rzucidlo
americajr@americajr.com

 

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DETROIT -- It has been almost 20 years since the Detroit Science Center last hosted an exhibit about dinosaurs. For those who have visited the University of Michigan Museum of Natural History, this is totally different. "Dinosaurs Unearthed" is a traveling exhibit with 20 dinosaurs that move, make noises and stomp their feet. In addition, there are five skeletons of dinosaurs, various bones and interactive activities for just about all ages. It opened on Feb. 19 at the Detroit Science Center and it runs through Labor Day, Sept. 5.

"The story of the exhibit really kind of tells the story of the link between dinosaurs and birds," said Todd Slisher, chief operating officer and vice president of the Detroit Science Center. "They do illustrate the real dinosaur movements and there are interactives within the exhibit. You can try to identify which creatures are dinosaurs and which creatures aren't. You can actually control the dinosaurs and control their movements. This is the best and brightest yet, I think. The exhibit includes a dig pit where you can uncover them yourselves. It is a touring exhibit. Before, it was in Cincinnati, St. Louis and Kansas City."

In 1996, feathered fossils were first discovered and remain the strongest evidence that modern birds are descendants of dinosaurs. Eight of the animatronic dinosaurs in the new exhibit. are feathered. Some of the best known dinosaurs like Tyrannosaurus rex may have looked very different than first thought.

"In particular, I look at certain pesticides or chemical contaminants that interfere with hormone action in amphibians," said Dr. Tyrone Hayes, a professor of integrated biology at the University of California at Berkeley. "Dinosaurs are a group of animals that are now extinct. They predate both birds and reptiles and mammals. So you have major classes of vertebrates, reptiles, mammals and birds that evolved from the dinosaurs, which are ancestors so to speak. Today, I'll be talking about my work with a pesticide that causes feminization of males. It causes male frogs to turn into female frogs."

Paleontologists have always thought that dinosaurs were scaly and reptilian in appearance. However, since feathered fossils were found, scientists now know that T. rex was covered in both tough skin and a downy coat of hair-like structures called proto feathers that helped regulate heat.

"I think it's really cool, I love coming over here and seeing the exhibits," said Bailey Hardaway, an eighth-grade student at University Prep Science and Math. "Dr. Howard was telling us about the robots and the motions. When we watched the IMAX, I had never seen a lot of those dinosaurs before. My favorite dinosaur in the video is called the Epidexipteryx. I like it, it kind of had a leopard pattern."

The new exhibit features the largest collection of feathered fossil replicas on display outside of China. Some of the fossils are located right next to the animatronic dinosaur to allow visitors to make connections between the two forms.

"I grew up in New York City and became very interested in birds at a very young age," said Dr. Scott Edwards, a professor of biology at Harvard University. "In my last two years of college, I got involved with some research looking at the evolution of a group of mammals. That's what really got me excited about becoming a scientist. All it really takes is curiosity and enthusiasm and that can take you a long, long way. I visited Wayne State University a long time ago. But I've never had a chance to meet the students from Detroit. I love this science center, it's just amazing. I did get involved with a TV show called Beast Legends. It aired on the SyFy channel and apparently, it's still showing some episodes."

Along with the exhibit, there is an IMAX show called Dinosaurs Alive! The movie uncovers evidence that the descendants of dinosaurs are still walking or maybe even flying today. It follows paleontologists as they travel from Mongolia's Gobi Desert to New Mexico.

"I can remember studying dinosaurs back in third and fourth grade," said Nia Hightower, an eighth-grade student at University Prep Science and Math. "Getting to learn more about them as I grow older is a pleasurable experience. The different engineering process that it includes is pretty amazing. We can see actually how they walked around instead of just seeing a picture. I just kind of new the Tyrannosaurus rex and that was pretty much it. But I'm learning a lot about the dinosaurs."

In addition, there is a planetarium show called Dinosaur Planet. That show takes visitors into dinosaur graveyards to study their bones and reconstruct how they lived and died. The final extinction of all dinosaurs took place 65 million years ago.

"Our goal is to go around interviewing black people about their lives," said Julieanna Richardson, executive director of The History Makers, a non-profit organization from Chicago. "Our oldest history maker is 113 and our youngest is 29. We travel to over 80 U.S. cities and towns including Detroit. We are bringing here to the city five of the nation's top African American scientists. We're really excited to be working with the science center. More importantly, we're hoping that the students here today that they'll be a spark that goes off in their heads and they will come away engaged in this fantastic area of science."

Tickets are on sale now at www.detroitsciencecenter.org or by calling 313.577.8400, ext. 420. Tickets are $19.95 for adults and $17.95 for children 2-12 and seniors 60+. Tickets include the Dinosaurs Unearthed exhibition, Dinosaurs Alive! IMAX film, Dinosaur Planet planetarium show, and all of the Science Center’s hands-on exhibits, and live shows and demonstrations.

Related Story: PHOTOS: A Tour of the Detroit Science Center museum in midtown Detroit

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

Allosaurus skull from the late Jurassic period (about 150 million years ago).

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

Some of the nearly 40 fossil replicas and eggs within the exhibit.

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

Dr. Scott Edwards, a professor of Biology, speaks to students from University Prep Science & Math.

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

This larger-than-life exhibit reveals the story of feathered dinosaurs.

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

All of the dinosaurs, skletons, replicas and eggs are from the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods.

 

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