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Issue Date: November 2009

Dinosaur Zone

Lauren Hennen

Anyone who has seen Jurassic Park knows that a race with a Tyrannosaurus rex is bound to end badly. But a new Cleveland Museum of Natural History exhibit argues that the king of the dinosaurs wasn’t as speedy as Hollywood would have you believe.

Dinosaurs: Ancient Fossils, New Discoveries, running through Jan. 31, highlights new findings in the field of paleontology. It features models of a newly identified Tyrannosaurus and a Dromaeosaurus, the first dinosaur unearthed with its entire body covering intact. It also has a moving replica of a T. rex that can reach speeds of 7 to 10 mph. Although it’s one-seventh the size of an actual T. rex, the model illustrates scientists’ beliefs that the 11,000-pound dinosaur wouldn’t have been fast enough to catch a speeding jeep full of scientists.

“In the last decade, paleontology has really accelerated,” says Michael Ryan,
curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. “The kids who were 6 or 7 when Jurassic Park came out are now getting their Ph.D.s.”

The Cleveland Museum of Natural History exhibit, which was organized by the American Museum of Natural History in New York, also includes a 700-square-foot diorama of the Liaoning Forest, the site of some of the most important fossil discoveries ever made. More than 35 models of different dinosaur, reptile and early bird species are on display, as well as a number of casts and fossils. “This is the best and biggest dinosaur show out there right now,” Ryan says.

To coincide with the close of the exhibit, the museum is hosting Scott Sampson from the Utah Museum of Natural History on Jan. 29. He will discuss dinosaur coexistence, evolution and extinction during the Mesozoic Era. Ryan says the talk will build on some of the ideas and discoveries presented in the exhibit.

“We try to bring in something dinosaur-related every two or three years because it’s so popular,” he says. “We really want to immerse people in the science.” 

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