Where we went, and who was coerced into going:
We were invited to attend a bloggers’ “social” last month at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Specifically, to visit the new exhibit, The World’s Largest Dinosaurs. Because we love all “world’s largest” things, even extinct ones!
WHY did you go there, exactly?
The exhibit is only open through January 2012. We wanted to get there as soon as possible, share it with you, and convince you to visit! And because The Girl is going through a dinosaur phase. She’s been playing with The Boy’s old plastic dinos, setting up social “meet and greets” with her Strawberry Shortcakes figurines.
Okay, what was so cool about it?
We found this to be one of the most hands-on of all exhibits at the AMNH. The lesson here is how dinosaurs actually lived, by revealing their biology. This exhibit focuses on the largest group of dinosaurs which ever lived, the long-necked and long-tailed sauropods, which ranged in length from 15 to 150 feet.
In the middle of the exhibit space is one type of sauropod, the Mamenchisaurus, which was 13 tons and 60 feet long. Thirty of those feet made up the length of her neck. Nearly life-size, this creature doubles as a projection screen. When you sit on the semi-circular bleachers facing her side, you can watch the video presentation displayed on her body, which describes how their bones, muscles, and internal organs worked. You can feel the vibrations of the show through the seats, which added a fun, dimensional experience.
One of the topics covered is their digestive system. You’ll see her neck light up as you follow the trail of the plant life she would eat. Sauropods would have to eat 10,000 calories a day. We learned that, despite their long necks, they would prefer to eat low-lying foliage, because raising their long necks would put a strain on their hearts and make it hard work to reach for higher branches.
In fact, one exhibit involved pumping levers simulating the heartbeats of different sized animals to compare the strain.
But The Girl’s favorite was the fossil dig in a giant sand box. Mainly because she got to wear the pink goggles.
This exhibit leads into the Museum’s series of fossil halls. The Museum is home to the world’s largest collection of vertebrate fossils, totaling nearly one million specimens. More than 600 are on view, and most of them are real specimens, not casts.
The fossils are displayed according to evolutionary relationships rather than chronology. You’ll see a giant, illustrated tree of life, where animals are grouped on branches according to their shared physical characteristics. This is where we learned that humans fall in the category “placentals.” Of course, Matt and I were then compelled to inject the phrase into the conversation as much as possible. “Where are our placentals?” “They’re over there by the stegasouraus.”
I’m not always diligent in reading the exhibit signage, but on this visit, I paid attention. Lo and behold, I learned a few new things about dinosaurs:
- Dinosaurs’ life spans increased with size. Sauropods would live to about 60, while in comparison, a tiny shrew lives only one to three years. While most creatures have roughly the same number of heartbeats over the course of their life – 1.5 billion – small creatures have faster heartbeats, and they use them up faster!
- We don’t really know what color the sauropods actually were. They’re depicted as green and brown, but all we know for sure is that they had scales. A fun view-finder exhibit showed them with different colors and patterns.
- The largest sauropod, the Argentinosaurus, weighed nine tons — ten times more than any known land mammal. These giants rank among Earth’s great success stories, roaming the planet for 140 million years.
A little background info about the place:
This video on the AMNH site goes behind the scenes with The World’s Largest Dinosaurs curators, as they explain the science behind the exhibition.
On the other end of the intelligence spectrum, we made this video of the kids — outrunning a dinosaur in a taxi — at a kiosk in the Fossil Hall. Hams, my family is full of hams.
[flv:http://gobigorgohomeblog.com/content/AMNH-TaxiCab.flv 375 300]
How it rated on a scale of 1 to 10 (1 = snoozefest, 10 = add to your bucket list):
9. Such a great exhibit…such a fantastic museum!
Hey you! Go BIG!:
American Museum of Natural History
Central Park West at 79th Street, New York, NY, 10024-5192