Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Dinosaurs - Dawn to Extinction Exhibition @ ArtScience Museum - Part 2

Location: Marina Bay, Central Business District (CBD), Singapore

Note: This is the second and last part of my experience in the Dinosaur exhibition. The previous part of the article can be read in Dinosaurs - Dawn to Extinction Exhibition Part 1.

The Dinosaurs exhibition had been fun so far, but I didn't feel impressed until my first encounter with a skeleton the size of a room. A large room in fact. Life was entering the late Triassic, and so had I. Welcome to the world where the dinosaurs started to win the competition for land and food.

Giant beings started roaming the Earth in the late Triassic era even though it wasn't their heyday yet. My first encounter with these looming giants was a battle scene re-enacted in a room, one between a towering Lessemsaurus and a carnivorous Fasolasuchus. The latter was smaller in size, but its barring teeth won in ferosity. To walk under the stretching tail of the Lessemsaurus sparked imagination of the roving giant stepping over you while battling its aggressor, and all would be awesome until you realized that you may not survive such a battle when it was stomping around.

To walk under and behind the Lessemsaurus granted me an unparalleled experience. It felt as if it just stepped over me to fight against its predator, until I realized that were that the reality, I most probably would not stand a chance of survival. 

The battle scene re-enactment between a carnivorous Fasolasuchus and the titan Lemmesaurus dominated this Triassic arena.

According to the description, Fasolasuchus, despite being one of the largest carnivore at the end of Triassic, most probably was a passive hunter, preferring stealing over fresh kills. This was a possible reason that herbivorous giants evolved to grow larger as the predators would could match them in size did not challenge them.

The photogenic room captivated me for a while, but I knew that life must go on, and so I entered the shared kingdom of Jurassic and Cretaceous. The former gained fame from the movie adaptation Michael Crichton's novel, Jurassic Park, but the dinosaur's heyday was really the Cretaceous period. Even so, they started evolving into astounding sizes since Jurassic, giving rise to large carnivores like Allosaurus and even larger herbivores like Brachiosaurus.

One of the most interesting exhibits which I only read of in articles and books was a nest of fossilised eggs. The exhibit was not photogenic, but any palaeontologist would tell you how important it was. With only bones and fragments, it was merely a guess that dinosaurs laid eggs much as reptiles do, and the guess was closely influenced by how both of them were closely related. It was not until the first confirmed fossilised nest as well as subsequent finds that scientists became sure that their previous guesses were facts.

A small display showcased some of the more appealing side of palaeontology. The field is one of the most challenging, requiring those of the profession to understand multiple disciplines, ranging for the scientific to detective works.

Adeopapposaurus, another dinosaur proving that not all were large. The size of a Doberman, it would only reach your waist.

A nest of fossilised eggs, and like all other fossils, could easily be mistaken as rock formations.

The skull of a Tarbosaurus, a predator sharing the same era as Tyrannosaurus but slightly smaller in build. This skull is about half an adult's height, and the full skeleton was as long as three mid-sized sedans.

A cute tiny model of an Allosaurus, one of the largest predator in Jurassic. It would not meet the infamous Tyrannosaurus rex because the latter only existed in Cretaceous. So much for T rex appearing in Jurassic Park!

Due to the different contraction rate of skins and muscles at different parts of its body during decomposition, dinosaurs as well as most prehistoric animals were found in this backward curling position.

No proud dinosaur exhibition could do without a Tyrannosaurus rex, the king of the dinosaurs and the most infamous of them. Indeed, ArtScience Museum provided one to impress the mass, and added some extras to educate them as well. With it being one of the largest and thus heaviest predator, the question was where did it get the muscle strength for running after preys?

The answer provided by studies and simulation of its possible muscle movements was presented through a small skeleton model that walked with a gait and a short documentary disproving the possibility of T rex running after the car in Jurassic Park. Oops, did I just said that it could not run? It would spoil a lot of kids' dream when they pretended to be a T rex and running around. Its ferocity was in no doubt though, so they can still pretend to be one, just that they need to stomp around instead of jumping around.

The infamous T. rex. Who wouldn't want to see one up close? The area around this gigantic predator was filled with calculations and studies of its movement, and the proposed hypothesis was rather sad for the king of lizards - it may not be able to move too quickly due to its body mass, and it may have been just a scavenger. So much for it chasing a car in Jurassic Park.

After T rex's display in a dedicated section, most famous dinosaurs started to make an appearance after that, showcasing the species' heyday in the subsequent section. It was rather sad and disappointing though that the section dedicated to the late Cretaceous was rather limited, especially when the theme was supposed to be on dinosaurs, not on other prehistoric animals, and most of the famous ones were from this final era.

Still when there were Stegosaurus and Triceratops abound, I am not going to complain. These were the who's who of the Cretaceous era, as famous as T rex to any enthusiastic dinosaur loving kids and adults. With the distinctive back plates and spiked tail, the former earned a dubious honour of being a particularly "slow" being due to its very small brain-cavity-to-body ratio. Triceratops would easily invoke an image of a charging rhinoceros, except that its horns grew above the eyes instead of its nose, and its overly large bony frill was as eye-catching as Stegosaurus' bone plates.

A rack full of different ceratop skulls much like the display of a hunter's trophy. The furthest skull belonged to Triceratops, one of the largest and most famous from the ceratops family, its name meaning "horned face".

Stegosaurus was famous for its spiked tail and double row of plates on its back. The problem with the arrangement of those plates was that it was never confirmed how they were really arranged on its back. Its skull was small, its brain cavity even smaller compared to its body, earning it a dubious honour of possibly being a "dumb" dinosaur.

Our hypothetical ancestor, winning the rat race, literally...

I don't know why I died...

The survivors marked the near end of the exhibit, showcasing fishes, avians, insects and mammals which dominate Earth in the modern day, including the human reading the post.

Beyond the Cretaceous era was a panoramic booth, with various models of prehistoric beings surviving post-Dinosaur. The booth was an eye-catcher by itself, recapturing a waning interest as the last of the giants lost out to the survivors of the next era. Realistic models of various animals and the attention to details just awed visitors, not to mention the photogenic booth's appeal to camera holders like me. From the sky to the earth, right down to those under the earth and water, were all showcased to the curious onlooker, telling the story of an age that we only knew from fossil records.

Exciting as the exhibition was, you just could not bring those models away apart from photographs of them. The merchandise section past the exit would indulge in your kids' enthusiasm to have something to commemorate such an exciting visit, from stuff toys to 3D models of dino skeletons.

For me, this exhibition of Dinosaurs - Dawn to Extinction is a boy's dream come true. There would be exhibitions of kinetic dinosaur models when I was young, but there were far from Ipoh and I had to resort to newspaper photos to sate my appetite. The lack of internet in those days meant that my newspaper cuttings were the closest I could get to these giants, and I really wished that I could meet these childhood interest when I grew up. And ArtScience helped turn this dream into a reality.

Important things to note about the exhibition Dinosaurs - Dawn to Extinction:

  1. Photography is allowed, but flashes are NOT allowed.
  2. There are displays of prehistoric beings and dinosaurs, the former more than the latter.
  3. Most exhibits are within the reach of hand, and these are models, not fossils. The fossils are protected from harm by display glasses. Even so, do not touch the models, unless the display mentioned the model are meant to be touched.
  4. The models are life-sized, so one could compare the size to a human by just standing beside it.

Environment:      Interactive museum in a down town area
Suitable for:         To visit the thunderous giants that had once roamed the Earth

Entrance Fee:                 SGD24 for non-residents
                                              SGD20 for residents (inclusive of PR and Pass Holders)
Opening Hours:             10.00 a.m. - 7.00 p.m. daily (last admission at 6.00 p.m.)
Exhibition dates:          25 January - 27 July 2014
Best Moment to Visit:  Morning visits will see less visitors
Length of Visit:              1 - 2 hours, especially for dino lovers and children

Website:                 Dinosaurs: Dawn To Extinction tickets page
Contact:                 +65 - 6651 7871 (Marina Bay Sands general hotline for entertainment packages)
E-mail:          (Marina Bay Sands contact e-mail for entertainment packages)
Address:                 10 Bayfront Avenue, Singapore 018956, Singapore

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