Exhibition - Dinosaur Discoveries: Ancient Fossils, New Ideas

Sunday, Mar 3, 2024 from 10:00am to 4:00pm
University of Michigan Museum of Natural History - Biological Sciences Bldg.
1105 North University Avenue
734-764-0478

Dinosaur Discoveries: Ancient Fossils, New Ideas
Traveling Exhibition from the American Museum of Natural History

Dinosaur Discoveries: Ancient Fossils, New Ideas, an engaging exhibition that reveals a vivid picture of what living, breathing dinosaurs were really like, opens at the University of Michigan Museum of Natural History in February 2024. This exhibition introduces how current thinking about dinosaur biology has changed over the past two decades and highlights current research by scientists from the American Museum of Natural History and other leading paleontologists around the world. 

Using a combination of major fossil finds, captivating computer simulations, and provocative models, Dinosaur Discoveries: Ancient Fossils, New Ideas introduces a dynamic vision of dinosaurs and the scientists who study them. This exhibition examines in great detail recent scientific sleuthing and the array of investigative tools from bioengineering computer software to CT scans—used by modern scientists to reinterpret many of the most persistent and puzzling mysteries of dinosaurs: what they looked like, how they behaved, and how they moved. It also explores the complex and hotly debated theories of why or even whether they became extinct. 

“This exhibition illustrates how scientists are using new ideas, new discoveries, and new technologies to revolutionize our understanding of dinosaurs,” says Mark A. Norell, curator of Dinosaur Discoveries and Chair and Curator Emeritus of the Division of Paleontology at the American Museum of Natural History. “Our work reaches across many disciplines involving paleontologists, biomechanical engineers, paleobotanists, and others to showcase how we go about reconstructing the mysterious life of dinosaurs.”

Twin models of Protoceratops, one showing a skeleton, the other a fleshed-out model, demonstrate this dinosaur’s unique frills. Scientists have developed new theories about why they sported these dramatic features. ©AMNH

Exhibition Highlights

The exhibition is divided into several major themes: 

- How Dinosaurs Moved:  In this section, biomechanical studies on dinosaur movement spring dramatically to life. Highlights include: 

- A video about T. rex depicting how experts in biomechanics and paleontology are teaming up to estimate the typical speed and gait of a rampaging tyrannosaur.  

- A full-size cast skeleton leg of a Tyrannosaurus rex.

- A stunning model of an Apatosaurus skeleton neck, whose construction was based on computer drawings used to investigate the full range of vertebral movements of this huge, long-necked creature.

- A high-definition video array on the wall directly behind the Apatosaurus neck displays a computer animation of the steel robo-dinosaur skeleton that morphs into a realistic fossil skeleton then gradually adds layers of muscle and skin until a full-fleshed Apatosaurus is moving on the screens. 

- The Liaoning Forest:  A diorama depicting a section of a 130-million-year-old forest that existed in what is now Liaoning Province, China. Fossil discoveries from Liaoning have shed light on the origins of birds, mammals, feathers, flight, and flowering plants.

- How Dinosaurs Behaved:  This section demonstrates how scientists are reinterpreting old fossil evidence using new approaches and new technologies to unlock the secrets of dinosaur behavior. Life-size models and skeleton casts illustrate theories on the purposes of the unusual horns, frills, crests, and domes found on many dinosaur skulls were they used for defense, mate recognition, or display? Highlights include:

- A case featuring various skulls, plates, and other armor.

- Twin life-size models of Protoceratops one skeleton, the other fully fleshed out.

- A life-size three-horned Triceratops skull.

- Extinction:  In this section, visitors can explore the hard evidence for theories on the possible events that ended the Age of Dinosaurs, including an asteroid impact, global climate change, and massive volcanic eruptions, and the descendants of dinosaurs that walk among us today.


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