1985: Through excavating historical remnants and making educated guesses, that was the last time I thought seriously about dinosaurs. They became extinct; what more could one possibly know?
At some time between me last paying attention and now, one of my favorite dinosaurs was determined to not even exist. Thanks, Connecticut Science Center. I still have not recovered from the demotion of Pluto. Now I have to live with the knowledge that a Brontosaurus was actually an Apatosaurus with a Camarasaurus head mistakenly stuck on it. Given that this error was discovered in the 1970’s, someone probably should have alerted me sooner.
The Dinosaurs Unearthed exhibit, opening on April 6th, features 14 life-size animatronic dinosaurs, three full-scale articulated skeletons, 23 fossil specimens (including Coprolite), and numerous facts, most not as depressing as the one about the Brontosaurus.
As I walked through the exhibit, I learned that there have actually been a number of recent paleontological discoveries, including that of the Gigantoraptor (not pictured).
Another change in dinosaur knowledge is visible throughout the exhibit: feathers. The Connecticut Science Center explains:
The feathered animatronic dinosaurs and fossils in the exhibition illustrate the current scientific thinking that some of the best known and loved dinosaurs, such as Tyrannosaurus Rex, looked much different than previously thought. At one time all dinosaurs were represented as being fairly reptilian looking with a scaly, leather-like skin. This exhibition explains that from the time of hatching to some juvenile stage, some dinosaurs sported a covering of both scales and a downy covering of hair-like feathers that helped regulate heat.
Besides learning about the dinosaur genera represented in animatronic and fossilized form, there is information about the creatures’ parenting styles and theories on the cause(s) of their extinction.
The exhibit is stimulating. Intended to be an immersive experience, there are scenes created to portray dinosaurs in their environments, complete with sound effects.
From an adult-perspective, the dinosaurs do not seem overly realistic.
They do not need more realism.
The children checking them out during the sneak preview all responded– mostly with excitement, some with hesitation, and a few with terror. Even before the exhibit opened, the one animatronic dinosaur in the lobby prompted the parents of some overly sensitive children to complain to the Connecticut Science Center.
Inside the exhibit, some of the dinosaurs are intimidating: giant teeth, giant claws…just giant.
The Tyrannosaurus Rex, at 45? tall, drew the most attention with its ferocity. Another popular scene features a Protoceratops and a Velociraptor, threatening to fight. This scene was inspired by the 1971 discovery in the Gobi Desert which is described in the exhibit.
The Connecticut Science Center is also showing Flying Monsters in 3D in the Hoffman Foundation Science Theater. This movie is recommended for ages 8+.
Dinosaurs Unearthed will be on display through September 2, 2012. The Connecticut Science Center (250 Columbus Boulevard) is open from Tuesday through Sunday, 10-5.
Not suggested for children who are afraid of Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny.
Reprinted with permission of Kerri Provost, author of the blog RealHartford.
To view other stories on this topic, search RealHartford at http://www.realhartford.org/.