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25-05-2009 – Maryland, USA: Chinese dinosaurs at Inner Harbor museum

Maryland Science Center to hatch ‘Chinasaurs’

More than 20 skeletons, other fossils will be on view at Inner Harbor museum

"Chinasaurs: Dinosaur Dynasty"

“Chinasaurs: Dinosaur Dynasty” features 20 skeletons, all of thunder lizards unearthed on the Chinese mainland. The exhibit opens May 23 and runs through Labor Day at the Maryland Science Center. Tickets are $14.95-$20.95. (Baltimore Sun photo by Kim Hairston / May 19, 2009)

 

If the Maryland Science Center has anything to say about it, Baltimoreans will soon think of China as the home of more than chopsticks, serious ping pong players and the giant panda. By the end of the summer, it should also be known as the land of Mamenchisaurus, Szechuanosaurus and Monolophosaurus, not to mention Tuojiangosaurus and Psittacosaurus.

Through Labor Day, dinosaurs from China will be invading Baltimore. And the folks at the Inner Harbor science center couldn’t be happier.

“Some of these have not been found anywhere else in the world,” says Van Reiner, the center’s president and chief executive.

“The dinosaur aficionados of this area are certainly going to see examples of dinosaurs they won’t see anywhere in the United States.”

Chinasaurs: Dinosaur Dynasty, opening Saturday in 7,000 square feet of exhibit space on the museum’s second floor, features 20 skeletons, all of thunder lizards unearthed on the Chinese mainland. Many have never before been displayed outside their native land (“The Chinese have been very protective of their finds,” Reiner says), and most are of prehistoric animals rarely mentioned in scientific textbooks.

That alone shouldn’t be surprising. The rate of dinosaur discoveries has been climbing exponentially in recent years, says Reiner. “Just when they thought they had identified all the dinosaurs, they hadn’t,” he says. “The estimate is that they’ve identified less than 10 percent.”

What might be surprising to dino-philes, as well as thrilling to even casual fans, is the range of fossils on display – from a 10-inch, astonishingly well-preserved Keichousaurus, looking like someone had carefully placed it between two sheets of rock, to a 70-foot-long skeleton of Mamenchisaurus, a creature with the longest neck of all the dinosaurs (think of a giraffe stretched out low to the ground, and you’ll get the idea).

Some of the names should ring familiar. There’s a Protoceratops, famous for being the first dinosaur whose eggs were unearthed (they actually turned out to be Oviraptor eggs, but that discovery didn’t come until nearly 70 years later). And there are several Velociraptors, the herding predators made famous in Jurassic Park.

But most of the names will prove not only unfamiliar, but tongue-twisting. Some, like Szechuanosaurus, sound like they’d be at home in a Chinese restaurant. Others, like Confuciusornis and Tuojiangosaurus (which translates to “two-river lizard”), readily betray their Asian origins.

There’s a skeleton of a Jinghanosaurus, its head peering around a wall into another display. A feathered Caudipteryx, one of those winged creatures that clearly marks the connection between dinosaurs and birds, is captured in rock as though desperately trying to flap its wings one last time. Among the oddest-looking beasts on display is Pachycephalosaur, a relatively small dinosaur whose gigantic skull resembles a football helmet. For the record, scientists don’t believe the creatures head-butted one another, but rather that they would smack each other on the sides of the heads.

And if any of those names give you trouble, try asking around. Dino-philes are usually pretty good with their nomenclature.

“Every few years, you get a new generation of dinosaur fans,” says Brenda Lewis, the science center’s acting director of exhibits. “You get these 3- or 4-year-olds who can’t talk properly, but they can pronounce the names of every dinosaur they see.”

If you go

Chinasaurs opens Saturday at the Maryland Science Center, 601 Light St. Tickets are $14.95-$20.95. Call 410-685-5225 or go to mdsci.org.

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maggio 25, 2009 - Posted by | - R. Dinosauri, An. Vertebrates, Mostre & Fiere, Musei, Paleontology / Paleontologia, Places | , , , , ,

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