If your kids go wild for dinosaurs (and really, whose don't?), the American Museum of Natural History's newest exhibit will have them roaring with excitement. Opening April 16, "The World's Largest Dinosaurs" puts a spotlight on sauropods—tiny-brained, long-necked creatures that lived 150 million years ago and grew to be as long as 150 feet—with low-tech fossils, high-tech installations and a 60-foot dino model.
The sauropods were a diverse group, ranging from the cow-size Europasaurus to the gigantic Apatosaurus (what we used to call the Brontosaurus). The show highlights one of the infraorder's most incredible members—the Mamenchisaurus—with a life-size model of a female; her elongated neck makes up half of her 60-foot length (see "Fossil factoids"). The model is split in half: On one side, visitors can examine the creature's exterior anatomy and skin texture, and on the other, view video projections illustrating its bones and internal organs.
In addition to fossils, skin imprints, brain casts and other specimens, interactive elements give young visitors an idea of how the sauropods' size affected their metabolism, heart rate and other biological functions. Kids can control a pump linked to a computer-generated dino to see how much pressure it takes to send blood up the animal's long neck.
To learn how the giants stack up to modern-day animals, museumgoers can weigh sauropod and giraffe vertebrae and compare the results, or view a dental display to see how an elephant's chompers measure up to those of a sauropod. Kids even play amateur paleontologists, excavating casts of dinosaur bones in a site modeled after Wyoming's Howe Quarry, where the AMNH made some of its greatest sauropod finds in the 1930s. Try getting them back to the sandbox after that.
"The World's Largest Dinosaurs" is on view Apr 16--Jan 2, 2012, at the American Museum of Natural History.
Children will be amazed by the size of Mamenchisaurus. Check out some of her startling stats.
Lived: 145 to 160 million years ago in China
Average length: 60 feet
Neck length: 30 feet, the longest of any reptile
Body height: 11 feet
Weight: Approximately 13 tons
Diet: About 1,150 pounds of plants a day.