Invasion of the dinosaurs

Invasion of the dinosaurs
An animatronic T-Rex that roars is among 12 life-like animatronics on show at the exhibition, Titans Of The Past - Dinosaurs And Ice Age Mammals, which is on at the Science Centre Singapore.

SINGAPORE - Dinosaurs are coming back to life at the Science Centre Singapore in a new exhibition put together by the expert who worked on the Jurassic Park's ones.

Titans Of The Past, opening today and on till Feb 23, allows visitors to look a T-Rex in the eye and hear its roar as it crunches on a bone - thanks to 12 life-like animatronics developed by Kokoro, a Japanese animatronics company.

You can also see the duck-billed hypacrosaurus and listen to its low, reverberating call. The animated dinosaurs took three years to develop and are on their first tour in Asia, before going to their final home at the Museum Of The Rockies in Montana, United States.

The dinosaurs' appearance and movements were based on the designs of Dr Jack Horner, 67, curator of palaeontology at the museum, which has the world's largest collection of T-Rex fossils.

He was technical adviser for the blockbuster Jurassic Park movies. "Dinosaurs communicated by colour and shape. They used their bones, like birds use their feathers, to tell each other apart," he says.

It is Dr Horner's fourth visit here, where he always makes a stop at Jurong Bird Park.

"It's a beautiful, amazing park but it should be called the dinosaur park, don't you think?" he says, alluding to how birds are relatives of dinosaurs.

The exhibition is his first attempt at taking a new theory he published in scientific journals almost 10 years ago to the public: More than a third of all recognised species from the Cretaceous period millions of years ago are actually juvenile versions of other species and dinosaurs' bone structure changed as they matured.

He says the three-horned triceratops from the late Cretaceous period, around 68 to 65.5 million years ago, is the younger version of the two-horned torosaurus, which also appeared then. The two were originally thought to be different species.

Besides the animatronic dinosaurs, there are also 63 fossils in the exhibition. Eleven are authentic, while the rest are detailed, realistic replicas

Through the fossils, the display shows how some dinosaurs' bones developed as they aged and how that affected the way they communicated with one another.

Among the fossils on display is the largest tyrannosaurus-rex skull found, measuring 1.42m by 0.8m by 1.04m, unearthed in southern Montana in 1965.

You can also walk beneath a replica skeleton of an argentinosaurus, one of the largest long-neck dinosaurs. At 36m long and 7m tall, it was estimated to have weighed 80 to 100 metric tonnes.

It is the first time this skeletal replica, based on bones found by an Argentinian farmer in 1989, will be exhibited in Asia.

You can touch some of the fossils, such as ice-age cave bear teeth which are 20,000 to 30,000 years old, or jump into a fossil pit to brush sand away from buried bones, just like a paleontologist.

"The Museum Of The Rockies is the only museum in the world to have the full growth spectrum of triceratops because for years, no one was collecting smaller, juvenile specimens. Everyone wanted the big ones but this range of fossils shows their development through maturity," says Dr Horner.

There will be 10 life-sized animatronics of ice-age mammals which roamed the Americas 2.59 million to 11,700 years ago. These include a sabre- toothed cat, a woolly mammoth, a pararctotherium or ice-age bear, and a 5m-long megatherium, an ancestor of the sloth.

These animatronics and two of the exhibition's dinosaur skeletons were brought to Singapore by Aurea Exhibitions, an Argentinian company, for the Titans exhibition.

Mr Patrick Wong, master science educator at the Science Centre, says it is a treat to see these fossils. He adds: "Such fossils are precious and it's rare for them to leave the museum they are kept in."

vlydia@sph.com.sg

Book it

Titans of the Past - Dinosaurs and Ice Age Mammals 
Where:
Annexe of Science Centre Singapore, 15 Science Centre Road
When: Today to Feb 23, daily from 10am to 6pm
Admission: $20 (adult), $16 (children between three and 12 years), and $68 for a family package of two adults and two children, for Titans Of The Past alone. There is also a combo ticket for Titans Of The Past and the Science Centre exhibits at $25 (adult) and $19 (child)
Info: Call 6425-2500 or go to www.science.edu.sg


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