Thursday, October 21, 2010
Review: “Dinosaurs Unearthed” at the Museum of Nature and Science in Fair Park
The majority of the animals on display are a great deal smaller than one might expect, though no less imposing — the teeth and claws remain, folks.
FAIR PARK Big Tex may have made his final appearance in 2010, but in the lobby of the Museum of Nature and Science stands his replacement — a 49-foot, fully animatronic Tyrannosaurus rex. The T-rex is the main attraction of the museum’s newest exhibit, “Dinosaurs Unearthed,” set to premier to the public on Thursday, October 21. For $5 above the price of general admission, visitors can enjoy 14 moving, roaring dinosaurs, as well as three life-size skeletons, a host of fossil specimens, and a seemingly endless assortment of interactive learning modules.
“Dinosaurs Unearthed,” though, is not merely another presentation of the same old creatures. It is the first exhibit in the world to feature feathered dinosaurs, representing a relatively new consensus in the paleontological field, that the so-called “terrible lizards” were actually more closely related to birds than any reptile. In fact, according to Dr. Ron Tykoski, the museum’s Chief Fossil Preparator, there are “over 9,000 species of dinosaurs alive and among us.” The species to which he refers are birds.
Admittedly, most of us have a certain preconceived notion of what a dinosaur is. We envision gigantic, scaly-looking bodies. But remember, not long ago, it was widely accepted that dinosaurs were cold blooded. That belief has been corrected, and so, it seems, will be the case with our numerous other faulty assumptions.
Current fossil records indicate that many juvenile carnivores possessed a layer of downy feathers (think of a baby penguin). The reason for these feathers is more heavily disputed than their existence, but the dominant theory involves insulation. Tykoski reasons that “small bodies lose heat rapidly,” and energy must be expended to keep them warm. Feathers would limit heat loss, “leaving more energy for other processes, such as hunting and reproduction.” As dinosaurs matured, their bodies grew, heat loss became less of a concern, and the feathers dropped off. Tykoski, though, is quick to point out that no theory is infallible. “Science,” he says, “never proves anything.” Science disproves: Researchers put forth a proposal, and others attempt to tear it to shreds. So far, the avian dinosaur theory has withstood the scrutiny of the scientific community.
Feathers may not be the only challenging aspect of the exhibit for museumgoers. The majority of the animals on display are a great deal smaller than one might expect, though no less imposing—the teeth and claws remain, folks. Even the roars are different than expected. The large carnivores sound more similar to birds of prey than to today’s land walking predators.
All else aside, however, “Dinosaurs Unearthed” isn’t just about education. It’s about fun, particularly for children. “Kids love it,” says museum communications manager Jennifer Whitus. The exhibit is designed to be highly interactive. Viewers can wiggle their toes in the massive footprint of a Carnosaur, run their hands along fossilized teeth and horns, even take control of some of the animatronic displays and decide when and how the dinosaurs will move. In addition, the museum will host dinosaur-themed birthday parties, sleepovers, day camps, and the on-site IMAX will feature a companion film, Sea Monsters: A Prehistoric Adventure that allows visitors to catch a glimpse of marine dinosaur life. The unique combination of scientific accuracy and quality entertainment makes the exhibit truly revolutionary.
So grab the kids, catch the DART Green Line, and get on down to Fair Park for this can’t-miss experience. It may just be the best opportunity you will ever have to walk in the shadows of dinosaurs. While you're at it, check out what else is going on at MNS, as it continues to set the standard for educational entertainment in the DFW area.
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