Dinos invade Exploration Place

Dinosaurs are coming to Wichita. They’re swatting their long tails, roaring and showing off their huge teeth at Exploration Place this summer.

“We knew people would love to see dinosaurs,” said the museum’s marketing director, Christina Bluml.

Dinosaurs Unearthed is a traveling exhibition created by a company with the same name. The exhibit includes two life-size skeletons of a Gasosaurus and a Huayangosaurus and many animatronic dinosaurs.

Each dinosaur is hand-crafted to exact requirements. Artists use wood frames, hand carve foam and paint on several layers of skin to bring forth these dramatic creatures.

“We consult with paleontologists on a regular basis to make sure we are keeping current on the research,” said Doug Butler, the exhibit’s production manager. “They are based on actual fossils.”

Five trucks laden with full-sized creatures traveled from Manitoba, Canada, to Wichita. The exhibit in Canada broke more than a century of attendance records, Butler said.

Several of the dinosaurs are based on fossils found in a 1970 discovery in the Sichuan Province of China. More than 8,000 pieces of fossilized bone were unearthed in this region. Other research comes from discoveries across the globe.

Butler said these dinosaurs are more than just loosely based on actual fossils.

“A lot of our expeditions are based on broad knowledge,” Butler said. “DNA knowledge provides the opportunity to create even more realistic animatronics.”

By using DNA, researchers can sometimes determine the animal’s colors, skin tone and whether they had feathers.

Children will be able to move two dinosaurs, including a Mamenchisaurus. They also can go on a dig and learn dinosaur facts on 3-D screens.

Several 39 feet long and 17 feet high animatronic versions of Allosauruses, which once roamed Colorado and Oklahoma, will taunt visitors with their roar. These dinosaurs grew to 3,800 pounds.

Examples of 22 fossils include a Sauropoda claw, a Triceratops horn and a coprolite – dinosaur feces. The Sternberg Museum of Natural History in Hays has loaned the museum several prehistoric fossils. These real-life relics will be on display at the beginning of the exhibit.

Dinosaur-themed toys, cups and books will greet explorers at the end of their trail. Visitors also may travel with Lucy and her father as they meet up with flying dinosaurs in “Dinosaurs at Dusk,” which plays at the Dome Theater.

“There seems to be a growing renaissance of dinosaurs,” Butler said. His company has more than 700 of these creatures on display throughout the U.S.

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