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Come Face to Face With Giants of the Past

The Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History's African dinosaurs exhibit opens Saturday.

The West Coast premiere of "GIANTS: African Dinosaurs" opens at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History at 10 a.m. Saturday.

Created by Project Exploration, the exhibit, which runs through Nov. 2, showcases the amazing African finds of world-renowned paleontologist Dr. Paul Sereno. Through this interactive dinosaur experience, visitors will come face to face with these giants of the past, learn about fossil discovery, be amazed by the art and beauty of ancient bones, and even dig for a hidden dinosaur seen in the movie Jurassic Park III.

It has been six years since the museum last had a dinosaur exhibit, and it’s the first time the museum will have a “bones” dinosaur exhibit.  “The simplicity of bones just says ‘natural history,’ and it’s amazing to see the past in real life,” said Brian Weber, director of exhibits at the museum.  “When you walk into Luria Hall, you’ll be greeted by Suchomimus, a 110 million-year-old giant that had the most powerful forelimbs of any two-legged dinosaur.”

Why Africa? About 250 million years ago, continents of today formed one large land mass known as Pangaea. Toward the end of the Jurassic period (about 150 million years ago), Pangaea began to break apart into two land masses: Laurasia and Gondwana. North America is within Laurasia and Africa is within Gondwana.

The more familiar dinosaur discoveries, such as the tyrannosaurus and triceratops, have been found in North America.  However, the dinosaurs of Africa were a mystery until the 1990s when Sereno and the University of Chicago led expeditions in the African deserts in temperatures reaching 130 Fahrenheit.  The discoveries by Sereno and his team provide clues to the mystery of how shifting continents affected dinosaur evolution.

Visitors will have the opportunity to meet new dinosaurs and learn new names. For example, carcharodontosaurus is Africa’s answer to tyrannosaurs. Can you say carcharodontosaurus three times in a row?

The exhibit features three complete replica skeletons, the deltadromeus, the afrovenator and the suchomimus; a human replica skeleton; a lungfish flesh model; two heads of carcharodontosaurus; and more.

Project Exploration is a nonprofit science education organization that makes science accessible to the public — especially minority youths and girls — through personalized experiences with scientists and science. Project Exploration was co-founded by Sereno and educator Gabrielle Lyon.

Click here for more information about Project Exploration. The Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, 2559 Puesta del Sol, is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (except June 28 and Aug. 1). Click here or call 805.682.4711 for more information.

Easter Moorman is the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History‘s marketing and public relations manager.

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