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July 31, 2013

Cranbrook’s newest dinosaur exhibit is now open with some new discoveries

By Tiffany Esshaki
C & G Staff Writer

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Cranbrook’s newest dinosaur exhibit is now open with some new discoveries
Several new dinosaur species on display in the exhibit were discovered just recently in the United States.

BLOOMFIELD HILLS — Make no bones about it: Dinosaurs have taken over the Cranbrook Institute of Science.

The museum’s latest special exhibit, “Dinosaurs — The Lost World,” features three galleries worth of scaly, toothy, ferocious beasts, all compiled from a private collection, along with items from the museum’s own haul. The exhibition gives visitors a glimpse of some of the most impressive dinosaurs from the late Cretaceous period, many of which were unearthed right here in North America.

According to Cranbrook resident geologist and paleontologist John Zawiskie, now is the perfect time to host the traveling exhibit of skeletons and casts, since many of the creatures on display were just recently found. Some of the fossils were discovered just a few years ago in Utah, along the landmass once known as Laramidia. The once-isolated stretch of land extends from present-day Alaska all the way to Mexico. Those dinosaurs are posed next to similar creatures from the same time period discovered in Wyoming and Central Asia.

“There have been a lot of new discoveries, and that’s the theme of this new exhibit. It’s a very appropriate time right now to do this — it’s another dinosaur renaissance,” said Zawiskie.

From marine creatures, including the largest-known turtle species, to giant new specimens found in southern Utah, the exhibit is much more than just another dino-display. Among the new editions is a massive research-quality cast of a ceratopsian Kosmoceratops, adorned with an impressive 15 horns on its head; as well as a breathtaking crocodile, measuring 30 feet in length. The museum claims “The Lost World” is the most up-to-date exhibition of its kind currently available.

The institute’s staff assembled “The Lost World” in a mere six months, after Zawiskie got word this past winter that private collectors John and Jack Hankla were interested in leasing their vast assortment of fossils. Since January, the Cranbrook team has worked to arrange the dinosaurs, meticulously prepare facts about each specimen and brainstorm ways to make the display not only educational but exciting, as well. The result is a dinosaur adventure suitable for all ages and interests, complete with QR codes and online data links for tech-savvy explorers.

Also included in “The Lost World” is a special children’s area, where younger paleontologists can excavate a mock-dinosaur bone bed, touch a real dinosaur bone and more. Then, over the course of the exhibit’s year-long stay at the museum, visitors can check out special events like lecture series and visits from dino-centric scientists and artists alike, in keeping with Cranbrook’s theme of melding science and the arts.

Soon to be on the schedule are a number of “Dino Prep Lab” days, where visitors can help prepare real dinosaur fossils still embedded in rock from the Late Cretaceous Lance Formation, collected from the Hankla Ranch in Wyoming.

Zawiskie said that, since “The Lost World” opening less than three weeks ago, the staff has received rave reviews. In fact, he said the members-only opening July 11 was the largest-attended opening for an exhibit in his 17-year tenure at the institute.

Among those flocking to see the fossils is 8-year-old Gilbert Sheldon and his mother, Julie Sheldon. The pair, from Clinton Township, said they loved the exhibit and stayed all day to explore all the artifacts.

“We love reading all the information and discussing the different aspects of dinosaurs, like whether they were plant eaters or meat eaters,” said Julie Sheldon.

Gilbert gave his seal of approval, as well, saying only that he really likes dinosaurs and that, no, they’re not so scary.

“Dinosaurs — The Lost World” will be on display through late-June 2014. The exhibit is free with museum admission.

For more information, visit science.cranbrook.edu or call (248) 645-3200.

The Cranbrook Institute of Science is located at 39221 Woodward Ave. in Bloomfield Hills.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Tiffany Esshaki at tesshaki@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1095.