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Natural sciences museum opens 'The World's Largest Dinosaurs' Saturday

The exhibit will focus on a group of super-sized dinosaurs - long-necked and long-tailed sauropods that stretched as long as 140 feet - and how their bodies worked to help them thrive for about 140 million years.

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The World's Largest Dinosaurs
The N.C, Museum of Natural Sciences' newest exhibit is sure to be a hit with dinosaur lovers.

But "The World's Largest Dinosaurs" takes a different kind of spin on the favorite of many a kid. The exhibit will focus on a group of super-sized dinosaurs - long-necked and long-tailed sauropods that stretched as long as 130 feet - and how their bodies worked to help them survive for about 140 million years.

Not only will visitors get to see replicas of what the dinosaurs might have looked like on the outside, they'll also learn more about their bodies on the inside. The centerpiece is a life-sized, detailed model of a 60-foot-long Mamenchisaurus. It takes visitors inside the dinosaurs to show how their heart rate, respiration, metabolism and reproduction are linked to their size, according to a press release. 

The exhibit opens Saturday and runs through April 12. I'll be talking about the exhibit and the Raleigh museum's new app for visitors with disabilities on the Fox 50 news around 8:30 a.m., Wednesday.

“This exhibition represents a new era of dinosaur research that leverages recent advances in technology and the expertise of multiple scientific disciplines to understand how the largest animals to ever roam the earth actually lived,” said Mark Norell, chairman of the American Museum of Natural History's Division of Paleontology who curated the exhibit, in a press release. “It demonstrates how our understanding of these enormous creatures continually evolves and changes in response to new science.”

The exhibit comes together with both the work of Norrell and Martin Sander of the University of Bonn in Germany. Sander works with experts in a variety of subjects such as sports medicine, animal nutrition and materials science to figure out why this group of dinosaurs got so big. Norrell and Sander take lessons from birds, the only group of living dinosaurs, and crocodiles, dinosaurs' closest living cousin, in their research.

I haven't seen the exhibit yet, but I'm told it's very interactive with hands-on activities designed for all ages. Visitors, for instance, can use a hand pump to see how much pressure it would have taken to move blood through a sauropod's neck to its head. And they can dig for fossils in a "dig pit."

As usual, the Raleigh museum will make its own additions to the special exhibit. On display will be about 10 sauropod specimens from the museum's world-renowned fossil collection. Visitors will even get to touch a large Diplodocus femur, along with vertebrae, a skull, jaw bone with teeth and a claw.

Visitors also can see fossil plant specimens on loan from N.C. State; tools that paleontologists use; and video footage from museum paleontologists in the field. There also will be puzzles and activities for young kids. 

Tickets are $14 for adults; $12 for seniors, students and military; and $8 for kids ages 3 to 12. Admission is free for museum members.

Museum members get early bird admission from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., Saturday. The exhibit opens to the general public at 11 a.m., Saturday. Saturday's grand opening activities include a free talk from Alison Moyer of N.C. State University. At 1 p.m., she'll talk about "Uncovering Earth’s Most Massive Dinosaur: An Expedition to the End of the World." 

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