10 December 2009
Posted in DinoDigs
(Originally posted May 3, 2009) - It's the most dramatic change in DinoDigs history! Moving a 14,000 pound predator is harder than it sounds - taking hours of meticulous labor by three dedicated individuals to achieve, but the king is back on his throne! So why the change?
In recent months, you may have noticed several changes to our dinosaur exhibit. You can delight your little paleontologists with new programming options like DinoSafari—our roving exhibit tour, fresh interactive experiences like the life-sized Velociraptor puzzle and the dinosaur song station, and even new case displays of local prehistory, with help from our friends from Florida Fossil Hunters.
But the most dramatic change in DinoDigs history occurred during the last week of February, as we redesigned the floor layout and brought Stan the T. rex front and center in the middle of DinoDigs. And he is an awe-inspiring sight!
Remounting Stan's skeleton in its new position took the combination of insightful planning, countless revisions and teamwork, and hours of meticulous labor by three dedicated individuals to achieve, but the king is back on his throne!
So why the change?
We approached the idea of moving Stan from several interesting perspectives. Recent research has changed much of what we know about T. rex - in the last five years, we've found footprints, feathers, egg-laying teen-rexes, and even preserved blood and proteins, which place the king of the dinosaurs in the same evolutionary group as ostriches and chickens.
By pulling Stan out into the hall, we are offering you with a remarkable opportunity: Look for yourself, and tell us what you see. With new additions of reptilian and avian (or crocodilian and chicken) specimens in Stan's enclosure, you can make the same comparisons and deductions that paleontologists have made in the past. Better yet, you may happen upon some new observations that will change the way we think of T. rex in the future!
Old Grudges, New Science
If you've had the opportunity to visit DinoDigs before the big change, then you might remember seeing Tyrannosaurus locked horns-vs-teeth with Triceratops,a battle scene envisioned time and again in fiction writing, film, television, toys and video games. But did it ever really happen?
Tyrannosaurus was what zoologists call an “Opportunistic predator.” T. rex was fierce and equipped enough to take on any prey it wanted. It was also big enough to scare other predators away from their own meals. Imagine a hotdog and a hamburger (or a tofu dog and a Veggie Burger, if you'd prefer.)
Now imagine that the burger is in a bear trap. Sure, the hotdog is smaller and less nutritious, but the hamburger will take a little more effort, and there's much more risk to eat it. In the wild, the sesame seed bun isn't always worth the hassle.
T. rex likely chose the easiest item on the menu. The duck-billed Edmontosaurus has no horns, no claws, and no sharp teeth – growing up quick and staying close together was their only defense. (The fully-grown Edmontosaurus in DinoDigs is estimated to be only four or five years old.)
Triceratops on the other hand, is much bigger than a duckbill, more meaty, and more nutritious to a giant superpredator like Stan, but that protective frill made it a difficult target.
And then, there are those three-foot spears on its' forehead.
"You're gonna need a bigger hall!”
Perhaps the biggest reason we moved Stan to his rightful place at the center of DinoDigs is simply to give you a better sense of just...how...HUGE Tyrannosaurus rex was. The towering frame of this Cretaceous killer is truly something to behold. And when you bask in the shadow of the greatest predator to ever walk North America, just remember to tell yourself - Stan's one of the smaller ones.
In the new layout of DinoDigs, it's hard to imagine which menu item Stan's going after. Is he looking for Trike Tartare, or the Filet of Duck-bill? It's your turn to explore the new DinoDigs. See firsthand the remarkable fossil evidence, and decide for yourself. They'll be waiting.