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An Animatronic Dinosaur Exhibit and Facts About the Real Reptiles

Linda Crampton is a writer and teacher with an honors degree in biology. She loves to study nature and write about living things.

Carnotaurus

Carnotaurus

Dinosaurs at the PNE Fair

The annual fair at the Pacific National Exhibition in Vancouver always has some interesting exhibits. In 2019, one of these consisted of life-sized dinosaur models, most of which were animatronic. Viewing the animals was a wonderful opportunity for people to appreciate the real reptiles based on our current knowledge of the creatures. In this article, I share some of my photos of the dinosaur models as well as facts about the prehistoric animals.

The models were placed in the Italian Garden on the fair grounds, which provided an attractive backdrop for them. A few years ago, the fair contained another animatronic dinosaur display created by the same company. With very few exceptions, the 2019 animals were different from the earlier ones. The company seems to have a wide variety of models to chose from. The older exhibit was known as Dinosaurs Alive. The newer one was called Dinosaur Stomp.

The Immigrant's Memorial Monument by Sergio Comacchio; the main dinosaur exhibit was located on the lawn behind the monument

The Immigrant's Memorial Monument by Sergio Comacchio; the main dinosaur exhibit was located on the lawn behind the monument

The Italian Garden in Vancouver

The models in the Dinosaur Stomp exhibit were located in different parts of the Italian Garden. Most of the models were located on the lawn shown in the background of the photo above. The lawn is normally used for games such as bocce, which can be thought of as an Italian version of lawn bowling. A few dinosaurs were located in the ornamental part of the garden, as shown in the second photo below. It was strange to see the creatures surrounded by sculptures, fountains, and flowers.

The Italian Garden is sometimes referred to in the plural because it contains smaller areas that look different from one another. It was created by the local Italian-Canadian community for everyone to enjoy for free. During the two weeks of the fair, however, a barrier separates the garden from the nearby road and sidewalk. The only way to enter the garden at that time is by visiting the fair.

Anyone who wants to see the fair and the garden should visit the PNE's website. Promotions on some days allow people to enter the fairgrounds for a reduced rate or for no fee at all, provided certain requirements are met. In addition, the entry fee is generally cheaper when tickets are bought online than when purchased at stores or at the admission gate. Once a person is on the fairground, visiting the Italian Garden is free.

An unusual combination: sculptures of characters from Italian operas, black-eyed Susan flowers, Boston ivy leaves, and a Quetzalcoatlus model in the background

An unusual combination: sculptures of characters from Italian operas, black-eyed Susan flowers, Boston ivy leaves, and a Quetzalcoatlus model in the background

A Brief Look at the Geologic Time Scale

The geologic time scale consists of multiple categories. One of these categories is the era, which is divided into periods. Dinosaurs lived in the Mesozoic Era, which contains the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous Periods. The dates of these periods are given below.

The beginning and ending dates of the geologic time periods change slightly as scientists do more research and formulate new ideas. I obtained the times below from the International Commission on Stratigraphy, which is often considered to be the standard source for the dates.

  • Triassic: 251.9 to 201.3 million years ago
  • Jurassic: 201.3 to 145.0 million years ago
  • Cretaceous: 145.0 to 66.0 million years ago

Dinosaurs were extinct by the end of the Cretaceous Period. The exception to this statement might be the ancestors of birds. Researchers believe that birds are descended from dinosaurs or are actually dinosaurs. Though the end of the Cretaceous Period is often said to be 66 million years ago today, some people still use the older decision of 65 million years ago as the cut-off point.

Pachycephalosaurus (in the front) and Parasaurolophus at the Dinosaur Stomp

Pachycephalosaurus (in the front) and Parasaurolophus at the Dinosaur Stomp

The Dinosaur Exhibit

The creators of the dinosaur models consult paleontologists and other experts before they design their constructions. They try to make their models as biologically accurate as possible based on the current scientific knowledge. The models are life-sized, but in some cases the creators have created smaller animals than adults and called them juveniles.

The animation of a particular dinosaur occurs at frequent intervals but not continuously. It's sometimes startling when the movement begins. The action is triggered by a motion sensor beside the model. A required pause after each movement cycle appears to overide the sensor.

A model moves its head and tail and its mouth opens. The bipedal animals move their front legs. The eyes of some of the models open and close, a process that increases the impression that they are alive. The movement of the models is accompanied by sounds that are popularly associated with the real animals. The undersurface of some of the dinosaurs moves in and out as they vocalize as though they are breathing.

The models are not the only attraction for children. The exhibit contains a sand pit where children can dig to reveal artificial dinosaur fossils. Based on my observations, children find both the models and the sand very interesting.

Our knowledge of dinosaurs changes over time as more fossils are discovered and better ways of examining them are created. Like the models, the information in this article reflects the most common ideas of scientists at the moment.

Quetzalcoatlus

Though Quetzalcoatlus was on display at the fair, the sign accompanying the model pointed out that it was a pterosaur, not a dinosaur. Pterosaurs were flying reptiles. Quetzalcoatlus may have been the largest flying animal that has ever lived. The reptile had a wingspan up to 35 (or perhaps up to 50) feet. It lived in North America between 68 and 65 million years ago. It's thought to have been carnivorous.

Quetzalcoatlus was a toothless animal whose body may have been covered with simple, hair-like structures. It had membranous wings that were attached to the forelimbs, a very long neck, and a crest on its head. When it travelled over land, which it's thought to have done very well, it probably used its hind feet and digits on its forelimbs for support. Some pterosaurs had coloured areas on their body. Quetzalcoatlus may have, too.

There is a lot of debate about the comparative length of time that the reptile spent in the air and on the ground. Some scientists say that the animal was likely a strong flier; others say that it was probably a weak one. A few have even suggested that it didn't fly.

A skeletal cast of Carnotaurus in a Prague mueum

A skeletal cast of Carnotaurus in a Prague mueum

Carnotaurus

Carnotaurus was a carnivorous South American predator. The model of the animal is shown at the start of the article and in the last photo in the sequence below. The animal's name means "carnivorous bull" in Latin. The reptile lived about 70 million years ago in the late Cretaceous Period. An adult was around 25 feet long.

Carnotaurus was bipedal, standing and moving on two legs. Its front legs were tiny and apparently very weak, even compared to those of most other bipedal dinosaurs. Strangely, the animal had horns on its head. The presence of horns and head ornamentation is generally associated with some of the herbivorous dinosaurs. Fossilized skin shows that Carnotaurus had a bumpy surface.

Some researchers have suggested that the broad head and the horns were useful when Carnotaurus was fighting rivals and other animals. Others have suggested that the horns were an ornamentation used to attract a mate.

The name dinosaur comes from the Greek word deinos, which means terrible, and the Greek word sauros, which was Latinized as saurus and means lizard. The name was created in 1842 by a paleontologist named Sir Richard Owen. Owen founded the Museum of Natural History in London, which is famous today.

Amargasaurus

Amargasaurus was a plant-eating dinosaur that lived in Argentina about 130 to 125 million years ago. It belonged to a group known as sauropod dinosaurs. These were herbivorous animals that mostly walked on four legs.

The animal had two rows of spines along its neck and two rows along its back. The neck spines were very long. The model shows the difference in size. It may be hard to see the shorter spines along the back because they are covered by skin and are coloured like the rest of the body. They can be seen in the skeletal cast shown in the photo sequence above.

The function of the spines is unknown. The back spines or both sets of spines may have supported sails of skin. Some researchers have suggested that the animal may have lowered its neck to show its spines to a potential predator as a threat. Some suspect that it may have always held its head low due to the weight of the neck spines.

Yangchuanosaurus

Yangchuanosaurus

Yangchuanosaurus lived in China 160-144 million years ago, which was in the late Jurassic period. The animal was a carnivore and grew as long as 33 feet. It was bipedal.

A juvenile Spinosaurus beside a basketball court

A juvenile Spinosaurus beside a basketball court

It's possible that at least some dinosaurs were coloured instead of being entirely grey. The creators of the models have placed colours on some parts of the animals to suggest this possibility, as they've done on the "sail" of Spinosaurus.

Spinosaurus

Spinosaurus lived in Africa 112 to 97 million years ago. An adult Spinosaurus was a large animal that was 46 to 59 feet long. This was longer than the body of a Tyrannosaurus rex. It had spines on its back that were extensions of its vertebrae. It probably had skin connecting and covering the spines so that the area resembled a sail, as in the animal above and in the video below.

As in other dinosaurs with the feature, suggestions for the sail's function have included social display, temperature regulation, and storage of fat, which could be used as an energy source when necessary.

Spinosaurus had a long and narrow head. Researchers know that it ate fish. It may have caught land animals as well, as a modern crocodile does. The video below is an interesting animation about what life may have been like for a Spinosaurus.

Mojoceratops was a ceratopsian dinosaur. The members of this group were herbivorous and beaked animals. The beak can be seen in the model below. Mojoceratops lived in the late Cretaceous period 75 to 74 million years ago. It has been found in Alberta and in Saskatchewan. Its head was highly decorated with horns.

Front view of Mojoceratops

Front view of Mojoceratops

Kosmoceratops

Kosmoceratops

Kosmoceratops

Like Mojoceratops, Kosmoceratops richardsoni (the only known species in the genus) was a ceratopsian dinosaur with a beak-like structure. It lived in Utah around 76 million years ago. The species name honours Scott Richardson, a volunteer working for the Natural History Museum of Utah, who found the first fossil of the animal in 2006.

The animal had the most ornate skull that has yet been discovered in dinosaurs. Based on the fossils found so far, a complete skull has fifteen horn-like structures and ten hook-like ones. Researchers suspect that the ornamentation was used to attract mates rather than for defence.

Omeisaurus

Omeisaurus

Omeisaurus lived in China around 160 million years ago. The different species varied considerably in size, but all of them had a long neck–the longest of any Jurassic sauropod, as far as we know. The tallest species had a height of 66 feet.

Dyoplosaurus

Dyoplosaurus belongs to a dinosaur group known as the ankylosaurs. The members of the group are known for their body armour and for a club at the end of their tail. The armour consisted of plates of bone known as osteoderms, which were located under the skin of the upper body and side.

Dyoplosaurus was a quadruped (one that walked on all four legs) and a herbivore. It's believed that its armour helped to protect the animal from an attack and that the club at the end of the tail was used to hit the attacker. Remains of a single species have been found in Alberta. The species lived around 76 million years ago.

Tuojiangosaurus

Tuojiangosaurus was a herbivore and a relative of the Stegosaurus. (The name of the animal on the display board in the photo above is spelled wrong.) The reptile lived in China between 155 and 145 million years ago. An adult was about 23 feet long.

The animal had a small head and a bulky body. The top of its neck, back, and tail bore triangular plates. The plates were replaced by spikes at the end of the tail. In Stegosaurus and perhaps in Tuojiangosaurus as well, the plates may have been used for display purposes or for temperature regulation. The tail spikes may have been used in defence.

Tyranosaurus rex or T. rex

A Tyrannosaurus rex model was included in the Dinosaurs Alive display, but it was nice to see it again at Dinosaur Stomp. The T. rex was the largest model in the exhibit and understandably seemed to be very popular, especially as the crowds built up in the afternoon of my visits.

T. rex lived in the western part of North America. An adult was 15 to 20 feet tall and around 40 feet long. The animal was a fierce predator. It had a thick and strong skull and serrated teeth. Its long tail could give a powerful swing. Despite the animal's overall strength, as in Carnotaurus the forelimbs of a T. rex were tiny. They may have played only a minor role in the animal's life.

T. rex appears to have been a very successful animal. Like many other dinosaurs, however, it became extinct at the end of the Cretaceous period. The two leading theories to explain this extinction both involve a massive change to Earth's surface and atmosphere. An asteroid hitting the Earth, major volcanic eruptions, or both of these factors may have killed some organisms directly and others indirectly.

Triceratops

The T. rex and the Triceratops were the biggest models at the exhibition and were placed beside each other. Triceratops was a ceratopsian that lived in North America between 66 and 68 million years ago. Like all prehistorical dates, the time period when the animal lived may change as more fossils are discovered.

Paleontologists think that an adult Triceratops was around 30 feet long and weighed somewhere being 12,000 and 16,000 pounds. The animal had three horns, a very noticeable beak, and a large, frilled, and bony plate behind its head.

Thought the Tyrannosaurus and the Triceratops models were placed beside each other at the exhibition, this close arrangement is unlikely to have happened in real life. The UK's Natural History Museum website says that one Triceratops fossil has a damaged horn with marks matching those of a T. rex’s teeth. The damage appears to have healed, suggesting that the animal survived the attack.

The museum also says that most ceratopsians appeared to live in herds, which may have given individuals some protection against predator attacks. Remains of Triceratops are generally found on their own, however, which suggests that the animals frequently travelled alone.

Instead of being automatically animated, the Parasaurolophus model was controlled by visitors pressing buttons on a control pad.

Instead of being automatically animated, the Parasaurolophus model was controlled by visitors pressing buttons on a control pad.

Parasaurolophus was a herbivorous North American animal that could probably move on two legs or four. It's thought that it foraged on four legs but ran from predators on two. It's believed to have lived from 76 to 73 million years ago.

Pachycephalosaurus

Pachycephalosaurus

Pachycephalosaurus

Pachycephalosaurus was another bipedal dinosaur with small forelimbs. The animal lived in North America around 70 to 65 million years ago. It was probably herbivorous but may have eaten some meat. It had an unusual feature, even for a dinosaur. A solid dome of bone was located on the top of its head. The dome may have been used in head-butting or flank-butting another animal, though this is by no means certain.

The dome had bony knobs behind it, as shown in the model. Another unusual feature was the existence of bony spikes on the animal's snout, which are also shown in the model. The front of the snout had an unusual beak-like structure. The animal's anatomy suggests that its brain was small, though it's unknown how this affected its life.

Ouranosaurus

Ouranosaurus

Ouranosaurus was a herbivorous dinosaur that lived in Africa during the early Cretaceous period. The back bore a sail containing spines. As in other dinosaurs with a sail, the structure may have been used for display, to help regulate the animal's temperature, or to provide energy from muscles and/or fat in the sail.

An Enjoyable and Educational Exhibit

I often enjoy a combination of entertainment and education. The Dinosaur Stomp exhibit provided this combination, though it would have been nice to have seen a bit more information about the real animals on the display boards. Young children seem to enjoy the animation and sounds of the dinosaur models very much. People of other ages appear to have fun exploring the models, too.

Exploring the latest research about dinosaurs is fascinating, but it's also frustrating. There are so many questions about the animals that need to be answered as well as a fear that some facts will never be discovered. It's comforting to know that new and sometimes unexpected discoveries about dinosaurs are still being made, however. I hope we're able to learn a lot more about the animals.

References

© 2019 Linda Crampton

Comments

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on July 21, 2020:

I haven't grown up yet either because I still love dinosaurs! Thanks for the comment, Dale.

Dale Anderson from The High Seas on July 21, 2020:

Like all boys, I loved dinosaurs and reptiles as a kid. I haven't grown up yet because I still love them. Thanks for this article and good idea to add the References section.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on December 25, 2019:

Thank you very much. Frances. I appreciate your kind comment.

fran rooks from Toledo, Ohio on December 25, 2019:

Loved your article. At the same time, since I'm a "newbie" I pay particular attention to your writing techniques. I'm learning and submitting!

Thanks for such an imformative article.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on October 14, 2019:

Thank you for the comment, Robert. I enjoy reading about the latest dinosaur discoveries. The news is nearly always intriguing.

Robert Sacchi on October 14, 2019:

I found this article very interesting. The list of known dinosaurs seems to be ever expanding.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on September 09, 2019:

Hi, Dianna. I've been fascinated by every dinosaur exhibit that I've seen, too. It was interesting to hear about the reaction of your grandchildren. I'm glad they overcame their apprehension and enjoyed the exhibit.

Dianna Mendez on September 09, 2019:

I have had the pleasure of seeing a few dinosaur exhibits and they are always so fascinating. When my grandchildren were young they were a bit apprehensive of the loud noises and size of the displays but not enough to stop them from touring the exhibit.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on September 05, 2019:

Hi, Adrienne. I wondered if the dinosaur models that I saw would scare some people, especially young children, but during my visits the children were fascinated. Perhaps the fact that the exhibit was held outdoors was helpful. Exploring the link between dinosaurs and birds is very interesting.

Adrienne Farricelli on September 04, 2019:

Dinosaurs are so fascinating! I once went to an exhibit where the dinosaurs looked really real and made noises and they scared me so much I had to get out of there! I still have a hard time believing that chickens share a common ancestor with T-Rex.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on September 02, 2019:

Thanks for the kind comment, Devika. I appreciate your visit, as always.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on September 02, 2019:

An interesting focus on Dinosaurs and should never be forgotten. Loads of information to learn from here. It is a greatly researched and presented with perfection.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on September 01, 2019:

Hi, Thelma. Thanks for the comment. I think the exhibition is worth seeing. It's educational as well as interesting.

Thelma Alberts from Germany and Philippines on September 01, 2019:

This is a fascinating exhibition. I didn't know that there are many kinds of dinosaurs. Thanks for sharing this informative and educational article.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on August 28, 2019:

Thank you, Nithya. It was an interesting exhibit to explore.

Nithya Venkat from Dubai on August 28, 2019:

I would love to visit the dinosaur exhibits. It was an interesting and informative article, enjoyed reading. Great photos, thank you for sharing.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on August 21, 2019:

Thanks for the visit and the comment, Dora. I think it's great that both children and adults seem to enjoy the display.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on August 21, 2019:

"Education and entertainment" is quite an appropriate label for this article and for the displays it describes. My son and grandson will be fascinated by this. Thanks.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on August 21, 2019:

Thanks, Penny. I discovered some new dinosaurs at the exhibit, too. It was very interesting to see such large models.

Penny Leigh Sebring from Fort Collins on August 21, 2019:

Fascinating! There were several dinosaurs that I hadn't heard of. I found the Amargasaurus particularly interesting.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on August 21, 2019:

Thank you very much, Denise. The exhibit is fascinating. I always enjoy exploring the world of dinosaurs.

Blessings to you as well.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on August 21, 2019:

Hi, Peggy. Thanks for the visit. The only animatronic dinosaur exhibits that I've seen have been at the PNE fair in Vancouver. I'd like to see the ones in other areas, especially if they were created by a different company.

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on August 21, 2019:

Fascinating exhibit. I'd love to see it in person. Fabulous pictures. Thanks so much for documenting this for us.

Blessings,

Denise

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on August 21, 2019:

I have seen some animatronic dinosaur exhibits in Houston, and they are always popular no matter what the setting happens to be. Those gorgeous Italian gardens made for a beautiful setting in Vancouver. Thanks for your photos and descriptions. Learning about the dinosaurs that used to roam the earth is always an interesting subject.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on August 20, 2019:

Hi, Heidi. The exhibit is a bit reminiscent of the Jurassic Park films.This is especially true now that many of the models have a background of trees. The last dinosaur display at the fair was beside a building. It was still enjoyable to see, though.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on August 20, 2019:

Hi, Linda. It is a great exhibit. I think the models are very good, though when seen close up some are a bit better than others. The exhibit as a whole is very enjoyable to visit.

Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on August 20, 2019:

So jealous! I would have loved to see that exhibit! I'd feel like I was wandering around Jurassic Park. And it's so Instagram-able. :)

Thanks for sharing, as always!

Linda Chechar from Arizona on August 20, 2019:

What an amazing exhibit! Triceratops was always been my favorite as a kid. All of the dinosaur models are very lifelike.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on August 20, 2019:

Hi, Liz. I appreciate your comment very much. Technology can certainly be useful!

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on August 20, 2019:

Thanks, Maren. The exhibition is a great way to educate people. It's fun to see, too.

Liz Westwood from UK on August 20, 2019:

This is an excellent guide to the exhibition. It is full of interesting information and excellent photos. It's amazing how technology has changed exhibitions in my lifetime.

Maren Elizabeth Morgan from Pennsylvania on August 20, 2019:

Fabulous information - and so nice for the exhibit to come to the public in this way!

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on August 20, 2019:

Hi, Pamela. Yes, the garden is a lovely place to visit even when the dinosaurs aren't there. It's not very big, but it's attractive and interesting.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on August 20, 2019:

That would be an interesting article to read, John. Dinosaurs are fascinating to explore.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on August 20, 2019:

Thanks for the comment, Flourish. Yes, it is a very popular place. After seeing the previous dinosaur display, I was hoping that the animals would return. It was good to see a new selection of the models.

Linda Crampton (author) from British Columbia, Canada on August 20, 2019:

Hi, Bill. Yes, it's easy to feel like a kid agaiin when watching the dinosaurs move. They are fun to see.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on August 20, 2019:

This is truly a very unique display of dinosaurs, and I bet children absolutely love this park. I thought the Italian garden looked beautiful also with the different colored flowers, which is more my speed. I do appreciate the pictures of the dinosaurs and all of the details for each one. It is hard to imagine 130,000 or more years ago and think they walked this earth. Very interesting article.

John Hansen from Queensland Australia on August 20, 2019:

This was very interesting, Linda. Some dinosaurs I have not heard of before. I recently visited an amazing place called “The Age of Dinosaurs” in Winton, Australia. Hopefully, I may be able to write an article on that at some stage.

FlourishAnyway from USA on August 20, 2019:

I imagine this is a very popular place! I know my nephews would love to go. I could just imagine them at this exhibit learning about the dinos. What a wonderful article, Linda. You live in such a neat area.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on August 20, 2019:

Who doesn't like a T-Rex, right? What a fun display/exhibit. I would love to visit this. I would be this big kid with my mouth wide open going OOOOOOHHHHH!

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