GIANT DINOSAURS is an exhibit of singular majesty, drama, current news, activity involvement and distinctiveness of theme - unlike any other natural history exhibit yet produced. This is fact, not exhibitor hyperbole.
Dinosaurs grew larger than any other creatures on Earth – as tall as five-story buildings, as heavy as 50 elephants. They inspire awe and fascination like no other life, past or present, and yet the largest of them all have never toured – are never seen in their true, colossal scale, nor understood for their singular niche in evolution. These marvels include the 125-foot-long Argentinosaurus and the new, as- yet-unpublished king of all predators, “Mapusaurus” – both touring for the first time in GIANT DINOSAURS, a traveling exhibition of 6,000 to 10,000 square feet, opening in 2010.
Beyond inspiring awe, giant dinosaurs raise huge scientific questions. Why did animals grow so large once and never again? Was gigantism related to weather conditions? A lack of niche competition? A wealth of nutritional resources? New metabolic strategies? What are the structural, environmental and biological limits to size of life on land?
Argentine boy with Argentinosaurus vertebrae
12-year-old girl stands next to thigh bone
Key scientific issues and principles underlie the development of gigantism among Mesozoic animals. How life attained such prodigious size involves questions of diet, metabolism, habitat, and behavior which have not been presented in any exhibit. These issues are themselves the subject of considerable current scientific inquiry.
The progress of that scientific debate and the data which underlies these hypotheses are examined first-hand by visitors in a host of interactive presentations within GIANT DINOSAURS. New technologies also inform the presentation of GIANT DINOSAURS in justly giant-scale immersive and dramatic multi-media environments.
Enormous and rare cast specimens
from museums worldwide, highly accurate sculptures and large-scale
innovative image projections and fully realized dioramas are
complemented by hands-on activities – whether weighing, measuring,
estimating size, making nutritional analyses, selecting food
sources, or constructing behavioral scenarios for birth, development
Visitors will learn about new scientific discoveries by participation in group activites that demonstrate the methods and results of the experiments underlying these discoveries, and through replication of the very processes that lead to those findings.
GIANT DINOSAURS is organized under the direction of “Dino” Don Lessem, dinosaur exhibitor, author, philanthropist and educator. His Dino Don Inc. sponsored and managed the excavation, preparation and mounting of the world’s largest dinosaurs as well as the most successful and largest of traveling museum dinosaur exhibitions from Jurassic Park: The Lost World to Chinasaurs: Dinosaur Dynasties. These and other Dino Don exhibitions have been featured in such venues as the American Museum of Natural History, the Field Museum, the Pacific Science Center, Arizona Science Center, the Houston Museum of Natural Science, the Denver Museum of Nature & Science and more than 20 other major museums worldwide.
Behold! Before you stands the largest animal ever to walk the earth – tthe stupendous Argentinosaurus. It measures 125 feet long and 26 feet tall, and higher still when set up firmly on its four, leg-supporting columns – indoors or out .
Exhibit entryway--through the legs of Argentinosaurus skeleton
Through its legs
you enter GIANT DINOSAURS and an environment of lush, exotic
Araucarian forests penetrated throughout with the rumbles and
roars of enormous dinosaurs. The black-walled and spot-lit hall
adds a keen sense of dramatic portent to the coming discoveries.
Children in a Dig Pit
Here, under docent or staff supervision, visitors excavate casts from a firm mock-sandstone matrix and jacket fossils in plaster, recording positioning data for taphonomic studies. Video kiosks here as at all exhibit stations detail the exploration process using 3-dimensional Pepper’s Ghost figures of expert scientists’ explanations.
THE FOREST OF GIANTS
Joining the trail at a now-staggered pace, visitors round a bend into a recreated giant sauropod habitat, a conifer forest with tree-break meadows carpeted in ferns. High above, projected images of the towering necks and heads of sauropods feed noisily on the large seeds within the tree’s cones, many of which have fallen half-eaten to the ground.
These are the trees that provided nutrition for Argentinosaurus, and an environment of some protection against predators.
Mamenchisaurus, giant sauropod
At a display station, which can be staffed, visitors handle fresh and petrified cones, coprolites, model skulls and teeth, and see video of remote Southern Hemisphere locales still harboring these habitats.
The third bay is dominated by the enormous neck of a Mamenchisaurus, an animal whose 27 foot neck is the largest of any creature’s. Before it stands a strength testing activity to pump blood to the dinosaur’s head – demonstrating the force of blood pressure or the mechanical measures for assisting blood flow to a neck so remote and impossibly high from an animal’s heart.
A more fundamental issue of
giant dinosaur physiognomy is the scaling changes in their skeletons
necessary to accommodate their great size. Spongy and fenestrated
bone in these dinosaurs can be touched as well as viewed for
its weight-saving economies.
In video presentation, structural engineers and paleontologists compare the support mechanisms of a giant sauropod with a school building of equal size.
METABOLISM AND EVOLUTION
The skeleton of a 20–foot long Plateosaurus prosauropod, an early Jurassic ancestor of the giant sauropods, looks down from the back of an active modern laboratory. Here is recreated the exciting active and ongoing research into the varieties of thermoregulation shown by large theropods and sauropods. It is introduced by short video presentations of paleontologists Martin Sander, Armand Ricqles, Anusayh Chinsumay and Mary Schweitzer revealing their new finds of variable metabolism in prosauropods and protein content as well as cell growth structures.
Microscope stations for visitors to operate are fitted with cells stained and marked, showing a variety of cell growth patterns found in carnivorous and herbivorous dinosaurs vs. the growth patterns of reptiles, ancient birds and modern birds.
The new and puzzling findings about prosauropod growth just published in Science by Dr. Sander indicate an ongoing experiment in metabolic strategies with at least two different growth development patterns in the same genus of dinosaur – the Plateosaurus.
Hand-operated growth charts allow visitors to plot the rate of growth of dinosaurs with a variety of metabolic strategies from ectothermic to mass homeothermic to highly endothermic.
The increasing sophistication of metabolic strategies may parallel the increasing size of sauropods and theropods alike. Light-up cladogram puzzles invite visitors to match various taxa with their sister groups, while highlighting some easily noticed characters in their anatomies.
The speculations on reasons
for enormous growth are reviewed in video presentation with
audience voter presentation for one or more of a variety of
scientific speculations on absence of competition, enhanced
oxygen environment, optimal climate conditions, and other unsubstantiated
hypothoses for this pattern of growth – itself reflected
in a progression of light-up wall outlines of sauropods and
theropods – with different avenues of evolution for tyrannosaurids
and the earlier giganotosaurids.
(above) Yangchuangosaurus, possible ancelstral relation to giganotosaurids. (above right) Veliraptor skeleton
the tyrannosaurids, the skull comparisons are drawn with those
of Albertosaurus and Daspletosaurus.
A recreation of the famed Paluxy River trackway from Texas indicates the path of a large sauropod pursued by a formidable predatory dinosaur.
Video recreates the actual interaction,
as the fleeing plant-eater is attacked from the flank by the
The sauropod foot (source of its name, literally “elephant foot”) reveals its weight bearing potential. A scale adjusted by the size of various dinosaurs, shows the pressure upon the human participant’s ankles and feet, producing fractures at weights far below those obtained by the sauropod dinosaurs.
Hands-on visitor interpretation of footprints is also encouraged in a variety of trackway models encouraging a detective investigation by visitors to interpret whether the patterns indicate migratory herding, with clustering to protect the young in the center known for sauropods, and pack attack and pushing off to swim among other trackway patterns shown for theropods.
Children can also measure their side and stride length against those of giant dinosaurs, even place themselves in the huge print of giant sauropod.
THE SOCIAL LIFE OF GIANT DINOSAURS
The evidence for the nesting habits of giant dinosaurs is only recently revealed in considerable depth by the findings at Alca Hueva in Patagonia. Titanosaur sauropods, akin to Argentinosaurus, nested in huge colonies.
The tiny hatchling head of a titanosaur was recently discovered, and is here recreated for visitors to touch in a recreated nest. Nearby curious visitors enter an enormously but proportionately overscaled nest with embryo-contained eggs and hatchlings watched over by protective parents.
Video presents recent and historic discoveries of sauropod eggs and nests back to the 19th century Riviera as well as indicating the protection of the young during migration, previously introduced in the Movement section of the exhibit.
This section addresses the puzzling
question of how giant sauropods could obtain sufficient nutrition
from their diets and via their horse-head-sized skulls and sparse
Within that crop and gut, digestive acids are augmented by gastroliths – stomach stones swallowed to grind food. Gastroliths will be available for handling and to compare in texture and composition to non-digested stones from the same locales.
Mechanically hinged conveyors allow visitors to open and shut sauropod mouths and convey food from head to stomach along the up-to-30-foot digestive path.
An interactive-adapted washing machine filled by visitors with plants and rocks spins and thumps producing ground food at regular intervals.
Meters register the amount of nutrition to be found in various types and volumes of plant substances which might be placed upon these computerized scales by visitors or teams of visitors.
Video presents animated sauropods raking foliage into their mouths and guts, and theropods both scavenging and preying to obtain meat.
HUNTING AND SCAVENGING
The last way station along the carpeted and darkened forest floor reverberates with the gnashing, chomping and cracking of bone by giant theropods. This is also devoted to social behavior, but of a very different sort.
also reveals the new discoveries of group social behavior among
individuals of varying sizes of both Albertosaurus and Mapusaurus
giant theropods from Canada to Patagonia.
Disarticulated and partial arrays of cast theropod bones are distributed across the area floor. Visitors can attempt to match these up to form individuals of varying size and age.
Paleontologists’ speculative hunting strategies of the giganotosaurs and tyrannosaurs are compared in animated video hosted by Dr. Philip Currie and Professor Rodolfo Coria.
In a graphically-forceful illustration
of how theropods used their teeth, the visitor moves a lever that causes the cast giganotosaur and tyrannosaur jaws and
teeth to slice and tear, respectively.
The varying tooth and jaw structures of giant theropods show how these dinosaurs either sliced meat like the huge giganotosaurids or crushed and tore meat and bone like T. rex.
The path ends in a, flashing entryway to a large display floor where visitors take in the spectacle of the exhibit’s final and most dramatic presentation – the unveiling of the largest of all carnivores, Mapusaurus.
Child with T.rex jaws and
INTRODUCING...THE LARGEST OF ALL CARNIVORES
In the spacious darkened chamber, lights in a cycling pattern first illuminate a curtain which raises to reveal the powerful 45-foot-long skeleton with its six-foot-long head leaning forward in an attack pose.
Projection spotlights from the
base of the skeleton cast its ominous shadow against a rear
wall, which then brightens with the animated form of the Mapusaurus
followed by the sequential appearance of a family group trailing
the huge predator. The pack then begins to move with increasing
speed toward a giant sauropod that appears on the scene. The five-minute dramatic spectacle ends with an attack and a roaring battle. Visitors may remain to
view a replay before exiting the exhibition: most likely to souvenir-shop
until they drop.
Dino Don, Inc.