giant dinosaurs

Introduction WalkthroughFossil CastsInteractives Videos

argentinosaurus

SUMMARY
The world's most current, interactive and imposing dinosaur exhibition. A 5500 to 10,000 square foot highly interactive and dramatically immersive exhibition available for touring from summer 2010, featuring the world's largest dinosaurs, and focusing on new research into the behavioral, engineering and metabolic implications of gigantic size.

How much did giant dinosaurs eat?
How did they breathe?
How did they grow?

How did giant dinosaurs attack and defend?
How big could dinosaurs get?

exhibition floor plan

INTRODUCTION: WHY BIG?

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 These marvels include the 125-foot-long Argentinosaurus and the new, as- yet-unpublished king of all predators, “Mapusaurus” – both touring for the first time in GIANT DINOSAURS, a traveling exhibition of 6,000 to 10,000 square feet, opening in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?

reb vert

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 and survival.

Leading researchers into the behavior and physiology of giant theropods and sauropods are scientific advisors toArgy the exhibit: Professor Rodolfo Coria of Museo Carmen Funes in Argentina, Dr. Philip Currie of the University of Alberta, and Dr. Martin Sander of the University of Bonn. Professor Coria excavated and described the largest of all dinosaurs. Dr. Currie and Professor Coria described the new largest of all predators, and Dr. Sander directs a multi-disciplinary study of dinosaur metabolism, the preliminary and surprising results of which were recently published in paper in Science and other leading scientific journals from rapid hot-blooded growth rates, to unique bone structural adaptations, to multiple birth cycles per year, to the questioning of familiar theories of giant dinosaur digestion via stomach stones.

Professor Coria excavating Argentinosaurus

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.

EXHIBIT WALKTHROUGH

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 .

entry

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.

THE INTRODUCTORY THEATER EXPERIENCE
A trail of enormous footprints leads to an introductory multi-screen theatre experience – a space for up to 80 seated or standing visitors. With field footage from exotic locales, CGI animation, and clear scientific explication, the multiple-screen video introduces the exhibit themes and characters – giant dinosaurs and their evolution and physiology, and the scientists and scientific method that informs us in our quest to understand this remarkable chapter in life’s history.

THE EXCAVATION
The evidence of dinosaurs and the basis of scientific hypotheses lies in fossils. While children and adults excavate in a realistic recreation of a giant sauropod quarry, an accompanying four-minute film also serves as a sorting mechanism, dispersing visitors as they crowd the exhibit at peak hours. So too, does the first of the several interactive bays located along the winding, conifer-lined trails: the dig site. This introductory immersion brings visitors into the exploratory world of dinosaur paleontology, as they enter a diorama set in a quarry within the Patagonian desert. With tools scattered, bone pedestals created, grids fashioned, and notebooks penned with fossil location data, this is a far more accurate and detailed recreation of a working dig than the activity stations often accompanying natural history exhibits.

dig

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 GIANTSMamench

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.


ENGINEERING

mamenchThe 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.

By handling bones of equivalent size but not porosity, visitors can compare weight to structure. And by compression of bones wthin a pressure-gauged vice, visitors can see how flexibility enhances or maintains, not reduces, resistance to stress and weight.

Mamenchisaurus skeleton head and neck

To demonstrate the size increase by volume rather than in two dimensions, visitors construct wooden
dowel dinosaur elements, which are suspended by wires in two sizes scaled to length. While the smaller stands, the larger collapses upon completion.

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.

For the giganotosaurids, their ancestry and relationships are highlighted with skull comparisons to its near relative Carcharodontosaurus and possible ancestral relations, Allosaurus and Yangchuangosaurus and more recently Acrocanthosaurus.

yang raptor

(above) Yangchuangosaurus, possible ancelstral relation to giganotosaurids. (above right) Veliraptor skeleton

For the tyrannosaurids, the skull comparisons are drawn with those of Albertosaurus and Daspletosaurus.

Also contrasted with skeletal and outlined forms are the declining sizes of dromaeosaurid “raptors” through the late Mesozoic, along with possible niche implications in the concomitant rise of the tyrannosaurids in the Cretaceous. The weapons of the various “raptors,” their speed and intelligence vs. tyrannosaurids are highlighted both in video and with touch fossils on carts and embedded in signage.

 

MOVEMENT

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 on-rushing theropod.

Fossil cast and sculpted limbs and hips of these dinosaurs are displayed, in a form visitors can manipulate. Their goal is to apply R. McNeill Alexander’s formula for estimating dinosaur speed via stride length and hip height.

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.

 

DIET

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 pencil-shaped teeth.

A huge and a smaller mound of evergreen foliage, seeds and cones shows the relative caloric requirements of a fully endothermic vs. homeothermic sauropod, set below the massive speculated chambered stomach of a giant sauropod.

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.

Video 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.
giggy

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.
Giganotosaurus--45-foot-long Cretaceous Theropod.trex

 

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 teeth

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.

pred

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.

FOSSIL CASTS AND DIMENSIONS

HERBIVORES
Argentinosaurus skeleton
125 feet long, 23 feet high (for atriums or outdoors)

Mamenchisaurus skeleton 65 feet long

Brachiosaurus head and neck 12 feet high

Diplodocus skull - 1 foot long

Brachiosaurus skull - 1 foot long

Malawisaurus skull - 1 foot long

Datousaurus skull - 1 foot long

Titanosauruid eggs and embryo - 6 x 6 inches round


CARNIVORES

Mapusaurus skeleton - 45 feet long, 12 feet high

Giganotosaurus skeleton - 38 feet long, 2 feet high

T.rex skull - 5.5 feet long

Daspletosaurus skull - 5 feet long

Albertosaurus skull - 4 feet long

Utahraptor skeleton - 12 feet long

Velociraptor skeleton - 5 feet long

Allosaurus skull - 4 feet long

Yangchuanosaurus skeleton - 34 feet long

Acrocanthosaurus skull - 4.5 feet long


ORIGINAL TOUCH FOSSILS

Sauropod and Theropod teeth

Gastroliths

Coprolites

Sauropod and Theropod femur sections

Sauropod vertebrae

Sauropod and Theropod eggs

Araucarian fossil branches and cones



INTERACTIVES

EXCAVATION

CAST-MAKING

MAPPING

TOUCH FOSSILS STATIONS (3)

FORCE GAUGE MANIPULATION - BLOOD PRESSURE

WEIGHT MEASUREMENT – BONE WEIGHTS BY STRUCTURE

VISE MEASUREMENT – BONE FLEXIBILITY AND STRESS CAPACITY

CONSTRUCTION: SIZING UP – SURFACE AREA vs VOLUME

CONNECTING BUTTONS – CLADOGRAM OF DINOSAUR RELATIONSHIPS

SIT-IN GIANT NEST – PARENTING AND ENERGY DEMANDS

SPEED BY FOOTPRINT MEASUREMENTS – CALCULATING VELOCITY

MECHANICAL JAWS OPERATION – DIGESTIVE STRATEGY

STOMACH STONE DIGESTION WASHING MACHINE SIMULATOR

CALORIE COUNTING – FOOD MASS PROJECTIONS AND MEASUREMENT

MICROSCOPE SLIDE EXAMINATION – CELLULAR EVIDENCE OF THERMOREGULATION AND GROWTH PATTERNS

BITE FORCE MEASURING – CARNIVORE FEEDING BEHAVIORS



EXHIBIT VIDEOS

(12 x 32" monitors and 4 x 72" monitors)

DISCOVERY THEATER - multi-screen animated and location (six to eight minutes)

SIZE/EXCAVATION AREA - location and animation (four minutes)

ENVIRONMENT - animated and location (four minutes)

METABOLISM - animation and microscopy (two minutes)

SIZE: ENGINEERING VS. BIOMECHANICAL ENGINEERING (four minutes)

EARLY DEVELOPMENT - animation and location (four minutes)

DIET - animation and live-action (four minutes)

MAPUSAURUS REVEALED - animation (five minutes)

PEPPER'S GHOST

6 projections of scientist video interviews (two minutes each)

Dino Don, Inc.
PO Box 404 • Media, PA 19063
Phone: (610) 892-0773 • Fax: (610) 892-0774
Email Dino Don, Inc.