By Judy Berman
Skeletal remains of one of the largest meat-eating dinosaurs tower overhead, just a few feet from me.
At 43 feet long and 12 feet tall at the hips, the Giganotosaurus, or Giant Southern Lizard, is terrifying. It’s one of the many impressive exhibits in a museum in Cocoa Beach, Florida, that hopes to open to the public next summer.
Steve Cayer, curator of the Museum of Dinosaurs and Ancient Cultures, acquired one of six castings of the “original (Giganotosaurus) found in Argentina in the 1990s.”
Giganotosaurus stomped across South America’s swamp land about 100 million years ago, during the mid-Cretaceous period.
That’s 30 million years before Tyrannosaurus Rex made his appearance in North America. It weighs 8 tons, 3 tons more than T. Rex. One in pursuit of its prey is scary enough. But it’s believed Giganotosaurus hunted in packs.
At the time dinosaurs ruled the Earth, Florida was under water. We’re millions of years removed from these ancient beasts.
Still, I shiver when I spot a Velociraptor chasing a juvenile Gallimimus over a fallen tree above the Giganotosaurus.
It’s a scary reminder of that scene in the movie “Jurassic Park,” when one of those predators outwitted park ranger Bob Peck (Malcolm) and slashes the ranger with its terrible long 3.5-inch retractable claws.
Donna Cayer, the museum’s education director, says their dinosaur museum will attract old and young alike.
“They know (dinosaurs) once lived. They come to life in their minds,” she said.
What about people who question that the dinosaurs ever existed?
“There are enough fossils found on every continent,” Donna Cayer said. “When they lived … we can debate that. All I know is they’re older than dirt.”
The Cayers and artist Al Rao help bring those scenes to life with dioramas that depict the period the dinosaurs lived in.
In the Jurassic diorama, a killing machine, the Allosaurus (“different lizard”), attacks a Diplodocus. The Diplodocus, the largest dinosaur skeleton in the museum, is about 90 feet long.
The Cayers hope to open the $3.7 million museum project to the public next summer to coincide with the premier of the movie, “Jurassic World.” Their complete dream will become a reality with additional funding from corporate and individual donors to their nonprofit museum.
The movie will feature a hybrid dinosaur – as if the real ones weren’t scary enough. Steve Cayer said “the original movie, ‘Jurassic Park,’ has people all messed up. They brought (dinosaurs) back from different ages and they all lived together.”
The Cayers plan to have a museum that is lifelike, colorful and fun. The dinosaur exhibit will be housed on the second floor of their building. The third floor will feature ancient cultures.
On the building’s first floor is the Dinosaur Store. There you can compare your foot to the size of a T. Rex’s footprint and check out other artifacts and replicas on display, and some for sale.
“One little boy was just walking around going: ‘Wow. Wow. Wow,” Donna Cayer said, chuckling as she recalled the 3-year-old’s reaction.
I felt the same way myself.
Do you have a well-kept secret in your neck of the woods? Are you looking forward to the new Jurassic World movie? Would a museum like this one intrigue you?
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Movie video – premier of “Jurassic World” due out in June 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RFinNxS5KN4
Main Photo: T. Rex skull – Museum of Dinosaurs and Ancient Cultures, Cocoa Beach, Florida
Photo: Giganotosaurus – Museum of Dinosaurs and Ancient Cultures, Cocoa Beach, Florida
Photo: Velociraptor chasing prey on a fallen tree scene above the Giganotosaurus. Museum of Dinosaurs and Ancient Cultures, Cocoa Beach, Florida.
Photo: Allosaurus attacking a Diplodocus – Museum of Dinosaurs and Ancient Cultures, Cocoa Beach, Florida.
Photo: compare the size of a T-Rex footprint to man’s. Steve Cayer, curator of the Museum of Dinosaurs and Ancient Cultures, Cocoa Beach, Florida.
Links to Dinosaur sites:
For more information on the Museum of Dinosaurs and Ancient Cultures in Cocoa Beach, Florida: http://www.museumofdinosaurs.org/
LiveScience – Giganotosaurus – Facts about the Giant Southern Lizard http://www.livescience.com/24642-giganotosaurus.html
Velociraptor Mongoliensis – National Geographic http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/prehistoric/velociraptor-mongoliensis/
LiveScience – Diplodocus – Facts about the Longest Dinosaur http://www.livescience.com/24326-diplodocus.html
LiveScience – Allosaurus – Facts about the “Different Lizard” http://www.livescience.com/24815-allosaurus.html