The most comprehensive exhibition ever mounted on tyrannosaurs makes its only European appearance as it opens at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh tomorrow (Thursday, 23 January).
Tyrannosaurs explores the most feared and revered of all dinosaurs, bringing the latest palaeontological discoveries to life and challenging preconceptions about these ferocious predators.
The exhibition features rare fossil specimens, cast skeletons including one of ‘Scotty’, one of the largest and most complete T. rex skeletons in the world, and incredible models of feathered dinosaurs.
Scotty was discovered in Saskatchewan, Canada in 1991. The specimen was named by the excavation crew from the Royal Saskatchewan Museum after they had made a toast with malt whisky whilst deliberating over what to call it.
The first partial T. rex skeleton was discovered in Wyoming in 1902. The exhibition features real fossil bones from one of the earliest known specimens. The field continues to yield fascinating new discoveries into the 21st century. The exhibition will include detail of two such species discovered recently in China, Dilong and Guanlong.
While the most famous of the species is the mighty T. rex, tyrannosaurs came in all shapes and sizes and from many parts of the world. Their history extends over 100 million years, meaning that T.rex is closer in time to us than to the earliest tyrannosaurs.
These various species lived in different habitats, at different times and evolved to fill different ecological niches. At least some if not most of them are likely to have had feathers. The exhibition allows visitors to investigate the tyrannosaur family in detail. Presenting specimens, casts, models and interactives, it explores the evolution of tyrannosaurs, revealing how natural selection, continental drift and climate change facilitated their transformation from carnivores little bigger than ourselves to massive predators like T.rex.
Dr Nick Fraser, keeper of Natural Science at National Museums Scotland said: ‘For any of us who are fascinated by dinosaurs, T. rex is surely the most recognisable, whether in popular culture or on the front of your first dinosaur book or poster as a kid. I think there is a real sense of wonder that such a seemingly fantastic animal actually walked the earth. Tyrannosaurs shows visitors not only the mighty scale of T. rex, but also their fascinating family tree, including early Asian feathered tyrannosaurs which are some of the most exciting recent discoveries in dinosaur palaeontology.’
Director and CEO, Australian Museum, Kim McKay, AO, feels that the public’s fascination with dinosaurs has never waned and the fossils in the exhibition are the building blocks of everything we know about these awe-inspiring creatures.
She said: ‘The Tyrannosaurs exhibition will not only take visitors on a remarkable journey to our earth’s ancient past, but will also provide a real sense of scientific enquiry and discovery from the latest breakthroughs and research programs.’
Visitors will be able to explore the diversity of tyrannosaur skulls and find out what variations in structure can tell us about different hunting and feeding strategies.
Tyrannosaurs, which is supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery, uses cutting-edge technology, includes hands-on and multimedia experiences. These include digital screens featuring computer animated creatures, AV of tyrannosaurs exploring modern-day Edinburgh, a large scale, multi-touch and multiplayer family tree gaming table and an interactive augmented reality experience where visitors can play with life-sized dinosaurs in the gallery.
This will be the only European outing for the exhibition, created by the Australian Museum and toured internationally by Flying Fish. It has already been shown in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the USA. Before touring internationally, the exhibition was brought up to date with exciting recent tyrannosaur discoveries including the oldest feathery relatives of T. rex.
Despite their final demise during one of Earth’s biggest mass extinction events, tyrannosaurs live on both in popular imagination and even through their present-day bird cousins.
Stephanie Kerr from the People’s Postcode Lottery said: ‘We are very excited to be supporting this exhibition which promises to be a spectacular, surprising, informative and hugely interactive experience for visitors of all ages.’
The exhibition runs until 4 May and is supported by a programme of events including a special Museum Lates Jurassic Party on Friday 13 March.
For more details visit nms.ac.uk/tyrannosaurs