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Catch & Release


First exhibit of polar dinosaurs now in Anchorage!

Illustration by Peter Trusler, courtesy of Alaska Museum of Natural History

A collection of rare high latitude fossils that has been flown around the world from Australia to Italy, Argentina, Japan and the U.S. is now visiting Alaska at the Alaska Museum of Natural History, April 2 through September 5.

These are the fossil beasts that revolutionized our ideas about the behavior of dinosaurs. The collection includes material from Alaska, Antarctica, Australia, New Zealand, and the tip of South America. Material from the North Slope is especially important because it comes from a locality with a higher diversity and number of bones than all other polar sites combined!

In order to paint a complete picture of the polar world of dinosaurs, the exhibit contains other vertebrates including amphibians, reptiles, mammal-like reptiles, and primitive mammals. Supplementary materials designed to enhance understanding of the specimens include beautiful original paintings, prints, text panels, models, videos, and computer interactive programs to compliment the fossil material. Alaskans who have seen it in Seattle were amazed by it. Worldwide, it has been met with rave reviews.

This exhibition, “Dinosaurs of Darkness,” is a joint effort of the Monash Science Centre in Melbourne and the Queen Victoria Museum in Tasmania working together with other researchers including: Dr. Bill Hammer, Augustana College; Dr. Roland Gangloff and Anne Pasch, University of Alaska; Joan Wiffen , New Zealand; Dr. Rosendo Pascual, Museao de La Plata in Argentina, Drs. Tom Rich and Patricia Vickers-Rich, Melbourne Museum and Monash University.

Never before have these materials been on display in an exhibition specially dedicated to them. The exhibit, which uses 4,000 sq. ft. of space, is multifaceted. It consists of skeletons, skulls, mummies, eggs and nests, fleshed models, teeth and lots of other bones. Some are casts and some are original. Magnified bone parts show proof that dinosaurs grew year round coping with the high latitude climates through all seasons. There is even the impression of a tiny dinosaur’s brain. There are tiny mammals of Mesozoic age, plants the dinosaurs ate, and the pollen that may have irritated their noses! There are fossil trees from the forests that grew then at high latitudes.

Original paintings by outstanding artist Peter Trussler help the viewer picture this different high latitude world. Fleshed out models give a glimpse of what the dinosaurs really looked like. There are videos that show dinosaurs in action. For special school group tours there are videos that address such issues as extinction, fossil preparation, field work and classification of organisms.

For teachers there are educational packs full of activities that relate to the exhibition and a catalogue that goes into detail on content of the exhibition. These relate to the detailed panels that accompany the exhibition—which have three levels of complexity. The book “Dinosaurs of Darkness” provides detailed insights into the collection and interpretation of the material on show in the exhibition.

Never before have these durable and intrepid dinosaurs been on show. This exhibition is like no other. For Alaskans, it will provide a greater understanding of the importance of the significant dinosaur finds in our state.

The museum is located at 201 N. Bragaw in the museum’s newly acquired and renovated Mountain View location. For information, call 907-274-2400.

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