News Column

With big teeth and loud roars, dinosaurs return to State Museum

June 20, 2014

By Joey Holleman, The State (Columbia, S.C.)

June 20--COLUMBIA, S.C. -- The Tyrannosaurus rex probably never lived here, but one of the massive creatures and many of his peers are back for a visit at the South Carolina State Museum's new exhibit "Dinosaurs: A Bite Out of Time."

The traveling exhibit features life-like (or as life-like as scientists can speculate) animatronic dinosaurs, from T. rex to the flying Pterandon to the aquatic Elasmosaurus. The metal skeletons inside the dinosaur skins allow heads to move side to side, arms to flail and necks to crane. The lighting in the exhibit is dark, and the dinosaur roars are loud.

Young children who are very easily frightened might be better off across the parking lot at EdVenture's more child-friendly "Dinosaurs: Land of Fire and Ice" exhibit. If your child seems scared, rush through to the end of the exhibit, where youngsters can get their hands on plush dinosaur puppets and plastic dinosaur toys in a play area.

For most visitors, however, "A Bite Out of Time" will be a blast of fun science. When you can take your eyes off the creatures, you'll find info graphics with details on where and when the dinosaurs lived and some of their lifestyle characteristics.

You might notice the species in "A Bite Out of Time" aren't listed as South Carolina natives. Dave Cicimurri, curator of natural history at the museum, said they did, however, have distant relatives in these parts. Fragments of bones of smaller cousins of T. rex have been found in the state. But the geography of the state -- with constantly shifting soil and lots of moving water -- prevented entire dinosaur skeletons from settling in one place like they have in the high plains and deserts of the U.S. West.

(If you want to learn more about South Carolina-specific dinosaur history, check out the museum's permanent natural history exhibit.)

The shapes of the dinosaurs in "A Bite Out of Time" are based on skeletal remains from more than 65 million years ago, though some are at half scale. The coloring of the skins and the sound of the roars are based on educated guesses. Cicimurri said paleontologists have re-created the hollow sections of crests found on many varieties of dinosaurs and blown air through them to see what kinds of sounds might come out. The coloring resembles Komodo dragons and alligators, some of the closest living relatives to the dinosaurs.

The idea is "to have school groups come through and be able to say this is what T. rex probably looked like," Cicimurri said.

And the kids can't seem to get enough of the prehistoric creatures. That's why the museum brings in a new traveling dinosaur exhibit about every five or six years.


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Source: State (Columbia, SC)

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