Feathered and Full of Surprises: Dinosaurs Claw into Vernon to Reveal the Latest Discoveries in Prehistoric Science

Captivating new stories in dinosaur science are about to unfold at Dinosaurs Unearthed, opening March 4, 2017 at the Okanagan Science Centre.  The exhibition invites guests to challenge what they think they know about dinosaurs and see their favorite prehistoric creatures in a new way.  The spotlight shines on a Tyrannosaurus rex juvenile sporting a coat of heat-regulating feathers; Sinosauropteryx, the first feathered theropod ever discovered; plus, the inside scoop on the ancestors of Triceratops.

“We are thrilled to be bringing the excitement of dinosaurs to Vernon,” says Jim Swingle, Executive Director, Okanagan Science Centre. “This exhibition brings key new discoveries to the forefront, and shows guests how fossil discoveries translate into conclusions about dinosaur appearance and behavior. New discoveries are happening every day, so it’s a fascinating time to introduce kids to paleontology.”

Dinosaurs Unearthed offers a new look at the appearance of carnivorous theropod dinosaurs.  A life-size, feathered animatronic Tyrannosaurus rex juvenile and a feathered Deinonychus serve as the visual centerpiece of the exhibition, roaring and thrashing and exciting guests with their scales and feathers.

The experience emphasizes the human fascination with dinosaurs at a time when dinosaur science is accelerating at a rapid rate.  New discoveries are happening at an exponential pace compared to a century ago and common understanding about dinosaur appearance and behavior is always being re-examined.

The idea that the T.rex juvenile spent its ‘teenage’ years covered in fibrous, downy feathers may challenge some guests’ beliefs about the iconic dinosaur’s previously scaly status.  Recent research suggests that T.rex hatchlings were born with protofeathers that they retained through adolescence to regulate temperature.  These feathers were likely shed before the dinosaur reached its six to nine ton adulthood.

Guests seeking proof in the feathered dinosaur story will need to look no further than the historically significant Sinosauropteryx – the first feathered theropod fossil to be unearthed in Liaoning Province, China.  Originally discovered in 1996, the Sinosauropteryx fossil is still studied and continues to yield scientific information today.  Dinosaurs Unearthed includes the 2010 discovery of melanosomes still present in this fossil, which revealed the color of the Sinosauropteryx tail to be russet and white.  It is one of the few dinosaurs whose color paleontologists now know. (Melanosomes are organelles found inside cells that produce melanin and give a living organism its natural color.)

More than a dozen other fossils from China and North America are on display, including skulls, eggs, claws, teeth and a giant forelimb and scapula, plus a full-scale Gasosaurus skeleton. The exhibition also features Protoceratops, the first of the Early Cretaceous horned-face dinosaurs found in China, which bears some of same features as the last of the iconic North American horned-face dinosaurs, Triceratops.

Teachers, parents and dinosaur-enthusiasts alike will appreciate the rich educational content shown throughout the exhibition that is grounded in current science and verified by the exhibition’s paleontologists.  For younger visitors, it’s the life-size, roaring T.rex head coming out of a wall, the hands-on activities and kid’s dig site that will inspire excitement around dinosaur discoveries.

Whether it’s staring up into the eyes of a feathered T.rex juvenile, getting hands dirty playing paleontologist in the dig site or taking in the large-scale graphics, Dinosaurs Unearthed offers a unique and exciting learning experience for guests of all ages.

Dinosaurs Unearthed is open at the Okanagan Science Centre from March 4 to August 31, 2017.

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