A traveling exhibit featuring 20 newly discovered dinosaur species that evolved in the southern hemisphere will open at the Milwaukee Public Museum on Feb. 7.
The exhibit, called “Ultimate Dinosaurs,” is on lease through May 15 from the Science Museum of Minnesota in St. Paul.
The dinosaurs featured in the exhibit are different from ones typically displayed in North American museums, most of which evolved in the northern hemisphere.
“A lot of these dinosaurs have counterparts in the northern hemisphere, in the United States, that we’re more familiar with,” said Bill Maloney, director of traveling exhibitions at the Science Museum of Minnesota.
But the dinosaurs evolved slightly different characteristics when the continents as we know them today were forming, Maloney said. Dinosaur populations were separated when prehistoric land masses broke up and moved to different corners of the globe. To cope with different environments, the dinosaurs evolved different traits.
For example, one dinosaur that will be on display, the Giganotosaurus, is genetically related to the Tyrannosaurus Rex but evolved in the southern hemisphere and is much larger. The Giganotosaurus is thought to be the largest meat-eating land predator that ever existed on earth.
Maloney said most of the dinosaurs on display are from the Triassic period (251 million to about 200 million years ago) and Jurassic period (From about 200 million to 145 million years ago).
“What attracted us is that we know that dinosaurs are really something that kids and families love,” said Ellen Censky, senior vice president and academic dean of collections, research and curatorial at the Milwaukee Public Museum. “We hadn’t done a big dinosaur exhibit in a long long time. When this one came along we thought it was one we really had to have because it’s not just putting all the dinosaurs we know about, but they’re ones that we haven’t seen before in this country.”
Censky said she hopes the exhibit will be a big draw.
“With our reopening of Streets of Old Milwaukee, we got a great boost in attendance and we hope that this just continues that trend,” Censky said. “It’s not just for kids because anybody who has seen dinosaurs; you just marvel at the size of these things. They’re just really fascinating creatures.”