Ancient Beasts


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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?


COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-15. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider,, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Movie video – premier of “Jurassic World” due out in June 2015. 

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:

LiveScience – Giganotosaurus – Facts about the Giant Southern Lizard

Velociraptor Mongoliensis – National Geographic

LiveScience – Diplodocus – Facts about the Longest Dinosaur

LiveScience – Allosaurus – Facts about the “Different Lizard”


    1. While I was researching this, I found that some pretty impressive dinosaurs came from Canada and North America. Thanks for the link. I’ll check it out. We’ve had a dinosaur exhibit at our zoo, Brevard Zoo, and kids were able to “dig” for dino bones. It’s a lot of fun!

      1. Yes – check it out – it’s a 2 hour drive from here but I love it! When you drive toward it, and just before you get there, you turn a corner and suddenly it’s as if you’re looking at a Mars landscape.

  1. The museum looks cool, but it probably would not be my first choice of someplace to visit. I know that’s just me. I have no desire to see the movie either. 🙂
    In my little town, there’s going to be an archeological dig at the site of a Revolutionary War battle–so some secrets may well be unearthed!

    1. Well, Merril, that “archeological dig” sounds promising as well. If I lived in the area, I might check that out.

      I’ve always been fascinated by dinosaurs. I confess I saw two of the Jurassic Park movies and might check out this next one, too. 😉

  2. Yes, Judy, a museum like this one would intrigue me. I have yet to find the museum that didn’t have something in it that fascinated me…some more than others, of course. The most terrifying phrase in your post: “But it’s believed Giganotosaurus hunted in packs.” EGAD. Can you even imagine?

    1. Barbara … You’re right. Those bad boys are about 43 feet long and each one weighs about 8 tons. There’s no way they needed to gang up and bully some other dino. I’d be heading for cover if they were still out and about. 😉

  3. My grand-boys would be fascinated with this museum. I wonder whether they know about the Giganotosaurus. I’m glad they are confined to museum and textbooks, and not wandering around these days.

    1. It is so much more comforting to know that I will only encounter them in museums, books … and movies. Marian, I didn’t know about the “Big G” – as I’ll call him to avoid misspelling his name again – until after I saw it in the museum in our area. 😉

  4. Judy as a child growing up in Australia I loved hearing about new finds in exotic locations all over the world. It did not seem possible and when I finally got to see real dinosaurs skeletons I think I was in my twenties and yes I went WOW too!

    1. Dinosaurs are very impressive. Kath, I don’t remember the first I saw a real dinosaur skeleton or where it was. But to see how huge they were and stand alongside their bones … Wow! I can only imagine the excitement an archeologist has when discovering those ancient remains in a “dig.”

      One of my favorite cartoon characters shares my love of dinosaurs, too – Calvin of Calvin and Hobbes. 😉

  5. Great post, Judy. Last summer we took our grandchildren to a museum that not only had the displays up close and personal, but also have a archeological dig sites created in a huge room so children could learn and practice. It all became “real” to me, seeing it through their eyes, and again, reading your post. Excellent.

    1. Thank you for your comments, Marilyn. Our grands have been to a “dig” in a traveling dinosaur exhibit at our local zoo. It is a fun experience. I wish that I’d been able to share that experience with our daughters when they were young.

    1. With your love of history, Carl, I know that’s an excellent fit. Dinosaurs fascinate me. Also ancient cultures. I realized from some of the things I’ve read about dinosaurs that theories of evolution are changing and being updated. Cool stuff!

      1. Most people these days suggest I have become a dinosaur. I think it is because I own and use a fountain pen, have embossed stationery and stamps. I also know where the post office is. Or is that the telegraph station? Hmmm.

  6. Some of these dinosaurs were really huge. I visited the Naturhistorisches Museum here in Vienna a while ago. One of the exhibits had been mechanized and given a ‘skin’ to make it look real. I saw it when I moved from another section and here was this monster moving in-place and roaring. It was scary!

  7. Mom, I have seen all the of the Jurassic Park movies and I own them on DVD- the New movie intrigues me for sure. I love the idea of this museum, and really enjoyed going to the one in Las Vegas with Granddad, when Kaitlyn and Connor were younger. Neat post, and I agree if Giganotosaurus were around today I would never leave the house.

  8. There will be a lot of little boys who will be roaming through that museum saying, “Wow. Wow. Wow.” There will be a lot of adults too i suspect. Great post Judy! As always.

    1. As relics of the past, dinosaurs are amazing. But, I would not want to run into one. It was difficult enough to remain in my seat during the Jurassic Park movies. 😉

      A culinary museum is tempting. Do you get samples? If so, I would definitely visit this place.

  9. This sounds like a really fun way to learn more about dinosaurs.

    When we were visiting Iceland we discovered that there is a museum in Reykjavik that is dedicated to a certain part of the male anatomy. Oregano, my best friend and I considered going just to see what it was about, but figured we’d be thrown out for laughing or making inappropriate comments.

  10. I am always happy to inspect museums and find exhibits that interest me, no matter what. The dinosaurs that visit places, like state fairs and zoos, have always intrigued me, Judy. They have them automated, electronically able to pivot their head and other ‘living’ moves. My grandsons were thrilled when they came to the Columbus Zoo to visit.
    When I was a young girl, my parents took us to the Smithsonian, I have only been back once. I can now tell you honestly, I could pore over almost every exhibit there and spend days… I like the silly movies, “A Night at the Museum” and in “Lone Ranger” the Native American, played by Johnny Depp, came alive. Imagination would keep me going. As others have mentioned, the actual, living dinosaurs would scare me to death!

    1. Dinosaurs being able to pivot their heads? Yowzer! That would make move, for sure.

      Robin … I loved the Smithsonian when we visited years ago. So, the characters coming alive in “A Night at the Museum” was a winner for me, too. That would kick my imagination into overdrive.

  11. I just saw the trailer for “Jurassic World” today at The Hobbit movie. Looks good. Who doesn’t like a movie with dinosaurs in modern times? I look forward to seeing it.

    This museum looks fabulous. I’m sure my sons would love it.

    1. Carrie … I am looking forward to “Jurassic World” even though it might scare me.

      As for the museum in Cocoa Beach, I hope it does open to coincide with the movie. That would be so cool. 😉

  12. Dem bones, dem bones, dem– dry bones–!! Huh– now what put that tune in my head??

    Man! That sounds like a wonderful museum, even if it doesn’t have any Schultz and Dooley mugs for sale in the gift shop… : )

    They have the Baseball Hall of Fame and the Farmers Museum in dear ol’ Cooperstown, NY, but they’d be hard pressed to compete with that T-Rex footprint in ye olde Thrills Department.

    Great post, Judy. I was Mr. Tardy and too late to leave comments on some of your earlier posts. I particularly enjoyed The Headless Horseman (a staple of my childhood Halloweens), and the New Orleans Ghost Tour!! : )

    1. The fact that you enjoyed them is music to my ears, Mark. The Headless Horseman, of course, is from near our old stomping grounds – New York state. Wonderful story that still captures our imaginations. As for the Dinosaur Museum, I can’t wait for it to open so we can show our ‘grands’ its cool contents. 😉

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