The feathered Tyrannosaurus rex juvenile at the Dinosaurs Unearthed exhibit at Grand Rapids Public Museum. Photo via grmuseum.org
Could dinosaurs be the ancestors of modern-day birds — and not reptiles?
That’s the question the Grand Rapids Public Museum is posing at its newest exhibit, Dinosaurs Unearthed.
The exhibit opens this Saturday and features a display of feathered animatronic dinosaurs and feathered fossils.
“Guests are asked to challenge their understanding of how some of their favorite dinosaurs lived and looked during prehistoric times,” according to the museum’s website.
A feathered existence
Guests will see first-hand the fossil evidence that led scientists to believe that dinosaurs are the ancestors of modern birds, not reptiles as previously thought.
A Microraptor fossil is showcased at the exhibition and represents not only one of the earliest discoveries of feathered dinosaurs, but the ongoing research into the life history of this species.
Paleontologists have discovered that feathers first served as a means of warmth or display for some dinosaur species and later evolved to the extent that flight was possible.
Five feathered animatronic dinosaurs and one animatronic primitive bird, Confuciusornis, offer a visual representation of feathered dinosaurs.
For many, the feathered Tyrannosaurus rex juvenile will be the most striking dinosaur at the exhibition.
Long considered a quintessential reptilian dinosaur in appearance, scientists now believe the predator might have been covered in downy protofeathers from the time of its hatching through adolescence.
Dinosaurs Unearthed also features a comprehensive display of fossils: an Allosaurus skull, Spinosaurus and Mosasaur teeth, Oviraptor egg and Triceratops horns and feathered fossils, including Microraptor and the primitive bird Longipteryx.
The exhibit offers a “blend of excitement and education that is sure to appeal to visitors of all ages,” said Dale Robertson, president and CEO of the Grand Rapids Public Museum.
There will be two interactive consoles that allow guests to control animatronic dinosaur movement — exploring how scientists believe each dinosaur moved its limbs, eyes and mouth.
For children, the museum said the exhibit offers many hands-on opportunities: interactive stations that explore dinosaur sounds, anatomy and digestion, as well as fossil detective work and a dig site.