The fossils are all in place, the placards are set and the dinosaurs are assembled and ready to animatronically delight, or scare, visitors.
“Dinosaurs Unearthed” will begin its public showing Saturday at the Putnam Museum in Davenport, but it was ready for a Quad-City Times-only sneak preview Tuesday afternoon.
Our tour guide is Teresa White, the inventory and projects manager for “Dinosaurs Unearthed” and the creator of the exhibit.
“This exhibit is based on the real-life fossil stories that paleontologists have found in the field,” she says as she begins the tour.
Here are her descriptions of some of the highlights:
Excavation site: “In our opinion, that’s where all the stories begin. The first dig is the Dashanpu Quarry excavation site found in the Czechuan province of China.”
Yangchuanosaurus: “He’s protecting his dinner, which is the memenchasaurus femur and, of course, this being a juvenile, there’s no way he would be able to take down a lone, gigantic theropod like the memenchasaurus, so the juvenile probably scavenged, as a solitary yangchuanosaurus would be no match for a giant theropod.”
Chinese dinosaurs: “Some people might find them relatively familiar at first glance, until they get close and look at the content and realize these are two Chinese dinosaurs. But these dinosaurs share a commonality with North America.
“We have a stegosaur-type dinosaur, the auragosaurus, and the gasosaurus. The gasosaurus was named because when they first excavated the bone, it was on ground that ended up being a gas plant.”
North American predators: “The biggest predator of the exhibit, probably the guests’ favorite, the T. rex.
“This time, T. rex is a juvenile and feathered. We’re going to show the difference between the juvenile T. rex and the microraptor.
“All three of these are theropods. Compared to the T. rex, you might think at first that it’s a bird. But in fact it is a dinosaur and probably a flying dinosaur, but its flight path was a U-shaped path and was a glider rather than an active flier like today’s birds are.”
Mongolian scene: “What we know from this scene is that the velociraptor and protoceratops were locked in a battle and probably died, either from sandstorms coming through or because a sand dune fell on top of them.
“But they are forever locked in combat where the velociraptor’s sickle-shaped claw is stuck into the throat of the protoceratops. But that protoceratops wasn’t giving up easily. He had his beak around the forelimb of the velociraptor, with enough strength that the forelimb was broken in several places.”
Utah quarry — Predator trap: “This is the famed allosaurus scene where, through the excavations, they found 44 remains of juvenile allosauruses and some adult allosauruses, a few herbivores such as brachiosaurus and stegosaurus.
“It’s called ‘Predator Trap,’ and at first you might think it’s where predators congregate and scavenge and hunt herbivores; they’re a favorite prey. But in fact a predator trap is a naturally occurring phenomenon where there may be a muddy wasteland or interconnecting rivers, in some cases some tar pits.
“The predators are attracted either to chasing the prey through this area or coming down to a watering hole. They become stuck in this natural hazard and their cries and screams and thrashing, plus the smell of decaying flesh, attracts other predators.”