Natural History Museum Builds "Dinosaur Hub" of West Coast - NBC Southern California

Natural History Museum Builds "Dinosaur Hub" of West Coast

The L.A. County Natural History Museum's Dinosaur Institute is working on a new hall of Mesozoic-era bones and fossils to engage and educate children.

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    The L.A. County Natural History Museum Dinosaur Institute is working on an exhibit of Mesozoic-era bones and fossils to engage and educate children. (Published Thursday, Jan. 20, 2011)

    There has long been a pair of dinosaurs to greet visitors in the lobby of the Natural History Museum, but they were, paleontologically speaking, your run-of-the-mill giant prehistoric specimens.

    That will change soon though, as the L.A. County Natural History Museum's Dinosaur Institute has been collecting and assembling a cast of Mesozoic-era bones and fossils to populate what they say will be the dinosaur hub of the West Coast.

    The prime target for exhibit, which will open in July, is enthusiastic kids.

    "We wanted to use the appeal the dinosaurs had as a vehicle for teaching about the nature of science," said Luis Chiappe, director of the Dinosaur Institute.

    Tommy the T-Rex, for example, has been a resident of the museum for a couple of years now. But one newcomer is about to steal his thunder -- a fossilized T-Rex that was 3-years-old at the time of its demise.

    The size of the new dinosaurs shows that the transition from birth to the massive creatures most people imagine is a surprisingly fast one.

    "They had these fairly small animals, probably weighing about, I don't know, eight pounds, 10 pounds, not a lot different from the weight of one of our babies," Chiappe said. "In 20 years or less, which is roughly about the same time it takes us to become adults, they grew to monsters."

    The youngster, along with another new T-Rex, help fill in the story of how their bones and muscles and even eye sockets change as the dinosaurs grew into young adults.

    Meanwhile, the team that finds and prepares the fossils for display are as excited about this new dinosaur hall as the school kids who stop by to watch them work.

    "It is exciting to see it all come to fruition and finally become a reality," said lab manager Doug Goodreau. "You're a rockstar…it reminds me of the excitement that I had at that age."