Inside the Museum at Prairiefire, dinosaur research roars to life
Jake Barbara had long bought into the “ Jurassic Park” myth that a Tyrannosaurus rex could keep pace with a speeding vehicle.
That thinking was destroyed quickly Saturday when the 11-year-old and his family toured the “ Dinosaurs: Ancient Fossils, New Discoveries” exhibit at the Museum at Prairiefire.
When dinosaurs ruled Earth, the T. rex stood about 12 feet tall, weighed 15,500 pounds and was about 40 feet long. That “ Jurassic Park” scene where the dinosaur escapes an electric fence and tries to make an evening snack of the frightened occupants of a fleeing Jeep was moviemaking poetic license.
In reality, T. rex was a slowpoke, perhaps not able to run at all. Its top speed barely hit 10 mph.
“I was disappointed,” said Jake, who attends California Trail Middle School in Olathe. “But I still think they look cool.”
The exhibit at the Overland Park museum opened Saturday and runs through July 12. It features a full-size cast skeleton of a T. rex, a variety of fossil specimens and fossil casts, interactive and touchable features, mounted dinosaur skulls and a 60-foot-long model of an Apatosaurus skeleton. Three large high-definition video screens behind the Apatosaurus illustrate the fossil skeleton.
Jake had bugged his parents for months to take him to the museum.
The exhibit was created by the American Museum of Natural History in New York. It examines how paleontologists have used enhanced technology to investigate and re-examine beliefs about dinosaurs.
For example, dinosaurs such as the T. rex may have had feathers and did not drag their tails while walking.
“We have enough facts to feed our brains and give us some real information,” said Uli Sailer Das, the museum’s executive director. “But there are so many unknowns about them that a lot is left to the imagination. The science keeps on progressing and they are making new discoveries.”
Taylor Jones of Kansas City was thrilled as she and her family walked through the exhibit. The fifth-grader earlier created her own mosasaur while using an interactive feature. The display allowed Taylor to create the creature and then have it appear moments later on video screens in the entrance of the museum.
“It looked pretty cool and I wanted to learn something about it,” she said. “I really haven’t learned anything about dinosaurs before, so this will really help me in school.”
The dinosaur exhibit also featured the Liaoning Forest, which was in eastern Asia. The 700-square-foot diorama depicts a variety of animals that lived in the forest 130 million years ago.
“We discover new species and we learn new information about dinosaurs all of the time,” Das said. “We now think that T. rex was covered in feathers and may have even had a feathered head crest.
“I bet that is new to a lot of people.”
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