By Micaela Williamson
Thought T-Rex was the largest predatory dinosaur to have roamed the earth? Think again! The semiaquatic Spinosaurus was more than 50 feet long and 20 feet high, that’s nine feet longer than the largest Tyrannosaurus Rex. A life-size skeletal model of this big, bad monster is focal point of the new “Spinosaurus: Lost Giant of the Cretaceous” exhibit now open at the National Geographic Museum.
Through multimedia exhibits, the museum brings the fascinating history of the Spinosaurus to life, beginning with the backstory of German paleontologist, Ernst Stromer, who first discovered the remains of the dinosaur in the Egyptian Sahara more than a century ago. During the 1944 bombing of Munich, Stromer’s fossil collection was destroyed, but luckily his notes, sketches and photos survived.
Inspired by Stromer’s work, University of Chicago paleontologist Nizar Ibrahim lead a group to the Moroccan Sahara, where a partial Spinosaurus skeleton was found in 2008. Ibrahim and paleontologist Paul Sereno, head of the University of Chicago’s Fossil Lab, worked with an international team of paleontologists to create a state of the art digital model of the skeleton.
“This exhibition is a fascinating tale of modern discovery and a trip back 95 million years in time to what was probably the most dangerous place on Earth,” said Kathryn Keane, vice president of National Geographic Exhibitions. “Thanks to science, we now know that the windswept and barren Sahara was once teeming with gigantic and terrifying predatory creatures, and Spinosaurus was the biggest and the baddest of them all.”
As they follow the interactive displays from Stomer’s Munich office all the way to Sereno’s Fossil lab in present-day Chicago, visitors will become immersed in the story of the Spinosaurus. The exhibit is capped off with the jaw-dropping big reveal of the life-sized Spinosaurus skeletal model, systematically displayed with other species from the Cretaceous period. Plus, museum guests will also have the opportunity to get up close and personal with real dinosaur fossils and learn about the latest technologies used by paleontologists today.
Other dinosaur-themed offerings at the National Geographic Museum include weekend screenings of the films “Sea Monsters: A Prehistoric Adventure 3D” and “Flying Monsters 3D” and “Dinosaur Discover Birthday Parties” geared towards children ages 5 through 12. These parties feature entertaining dino-themed activities such as imaginary dinosaur expeditions, scavenger hunts, games and more. Additionally, a life-size flesh replica of the Spinosaurus, featured on the cover of National Geographic magazine’s October issue, can be seen in National Geographic’s courtyard, on M Street between 16th and 17th Streets, N.W
The Spinosaurus exhibition will remain open at the National Geographic Museum until April 12, 2015. Daily tours of the exhibition are also offered at 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Find out more and purchase tickets at www.ngmuseum.org.
The National Geographic Museum
1145 17th St., N.W.,
Open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Admission: $11 for adults; $9 for National Geographic members, military, students, seniors and groups of 25 or more; $7 for children 5-12; and free for local school, student and youth groups (18 and under; advance reservation required.)
Micaela Williamson is a co-author of local travel guide, Kid Trips Northern Virginia, an extraordinary resource that provides descriptions, useful information and insider tips for hundreds of local destinations. Micaela is also an award winning blogger who enjoys supporting area businesses and scouting out family-friendly venues with her two young sons.