Exhibit Hall

Now Open on Level 4

Meet the ancient rulers of our planet as you examine fossil replicas of dinosaurs and prehistoric sea creatures. Orlando Science Center showcases the dinosaurs in their disparate land and aquatic settings as guests become part of a paleontological excavation site.

  • Uncover 'fossils' in the dig pit and examine fossilized dino eggs
  • Explore displays that feature ancient land and marine reptiles
  • Compare reptiles and dinosaurs to see similarities and differences
  • Discover denizens of the ancient oceans such as Elasmosaurus and Tylosaurus

 

A discovery from Montana’s Hell Creek Formation leads researchers to believe the Triceratops may have been the last dinosaur standing. At 65 million years old, the rhinoceros-like, three-horned Triceratops would be the youngest dinosaur known to man. The dino’s age falls into the Cretaceous-Tertiary (K-T) period where scientists believe all non-avian, or non bird-like, dinos became extinct. This finding could prove the “3-meter gap” theory false.

The 3-meter gap theory suggests dinosaurs gradually died out before the K-T event 65 million years ago. Those who support this theory believe a meteor couldn’t have killed all the dinosaurs at once because there is a segment free from any fossils. The recent discovery at Hell Creek seems to prove that theory wrong. According to the article on Discovery News, The Hell Creek Triceratops “was not only found within that 3-meter region, but it also exists at the upper reaches of it, proving that at least one dinosaur and presumably more were still alive when the meteorite blasted into Chicxulub, Mexico.” Thus, the opposing theory to the 3-meter gap suggests dinosaurs went extinct in masses because a meteor struck their homeland.

Researchers are still discovering fossils of small mammals that lived after the KT event in the Montana area. The mammals, including hoofed condylarths and rodent like multiuberculates, had to adapt and relocate after the dinosaurs went extinct. Why certain creatures survived the K-T extinction may never be known but science suggests their diet had something to do with it. Dinosaur extinction is a mystery waiting to be solved. Archeologists and researchers are continually looking to solve the case, so discoveries like the Triceratops in Montana are helpful pieces added to the puzzle.

Triceratops


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Scientists have discovered a way to take the temperature of dinosaurs. But how you ask? After all, they have been extinct for millions of years. As it turns out dinosaur teeth are good for more than just the act of chewing. Researchers were able to measure the dinosaurs’ temperatures because body temperature makes a difference in the amount of different types of carbon and oxygen that collect in the tooth enamel.

What is surprising is that the temperature of dinosaurs turns out to be almost the same as ours! They found a long-necked Brachiosaurus had a temperature of about 100.8 degrees F and the smaller Camarasaurus had a temperature of about 98.3 degrees F. People average around 98.6 degrees F. So, wouldn’t that mean that dinosaurs are warm blooded like us? Not necessarily.

When dinosaurs were first discovered, the theory was that they were lethargic and cold-blooded, but recent evidence suggests they may be more likely to be warm-blooded, which would allow them to be more active, like the velociraptors in the Jurassic Park movies.

Although the debate still remains whether or not dinosaurs were warm blooded or cold blooded, lead researcher Robert A. Eagle of the California Institute of Technology suggests, “our analysis really allows us to rule out that they could have been cold [blooded], like crocodiles, for example.” He also adds, “this doesn’t necessarily mean these large dinosaurs had high metabolism like mammals and birds…they could have been ‘gigantotherms’ and stay warm because they were so large.” Large body masses are good at keeping temperatures constant.

According to Roger Seymour of the University of Adelaide, Australia, the findings “confirm that dinosaurs were not sluggish, cold-blooded animals. However, the debate about dinosaur metabolic rate will go on, no doubt, because it can never be measured directly and paleoscientists will often seek evidence to support a particular view and ignore contrary evidence.” The verdict remains to be seen.


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Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s a dinosaur! LiveScience.com reports that a small adult dinosaur fossil has been found in the southern U.K. At roughly 15.7 inches long, the new fossil could belong to the world’s tiniest dinosaur.

Many of us think dinosaurs were all large creatures that roamed the Earth. But there were actually many smaller groups of dinos that existed as well millions of years ago. University of Portsmouth paleozoologist Darren Naish explained the tiny neck bone belonged to a creature from the maniraptoran group that lived in the Cretaceous period 145 million to 100 million years ago. It is this group that is thought to have led to modern day birds. Because only one vertebra has been found, researchers are unable to say what the dino ate and how long it truly was.

Two techniques were used to estimate the size of the maniraptoran. One method involved fitting a digital model of the dinosaur's neck into a body of a generic maniraptoran. The other method used neck-to-body ratios of other related dinosaurs to estimate the maniraptoran's length. Both methods estimated the size of the dino to be 13 to 15.7 inches.

The new dinosaur has not been named yet, but it’s being referred to as the “Ashdown dino,” based on the location where it was found. If the Ashdown dino is found to be the smallest on record, it will beat out Anchiornis, another birdlike dinosaur that lived in what is now China 160 million to 155 million years ago. It would also be smaller than North America's smallest known dinosaur, Hesperonychus elizabethae, a velociraptor-like predator that was about a foot and a half (50 cm) tall and weighed 4 pounds (2 kilograms).

Dino

A newly-discovered maniraptoran dinosaur may have looked like the feathered dinosaur seen here, about to become a snack for the larger Darwinopterus modularis.
CREDIT: Mark Witton/University of Portsmouth


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