Milwaukee Zoo’s “Jurassic Journey” Dinosaur Exhibit!

 

Many zoos around the country offer guests a chance to see prehistoric animals alongside their living ones. This is thanks to the skilled craftsman and animatronic wizards of several companies including Billings Productions, Inc. who offer their clients a selection of over three hundred different prehistoric animals to choose from. As of this date, I’ve seen robotic dinosaurs at Chicago’s Brookfield Zoo, the North Carolina Zoo, Franklin Park Zoo in New England, and a few in Milwaukee. Although I love Natural history museums and their collection of fossils, these life-like representations are a great way to envision yourself standing before living ones. The Milwaukee County Zoo is about two hours north of me and I make a point to visit them at least twice a year. It’s a decent sized park with elephants, bears, and a large collection of big cats so never disappoints. They’ve featured dinosaurs and even giant bugs every couple years or so, though always with a different selection. The cost is $3 per person (in addition to their regular admission fees) and well worth it!

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Illinois’ Dryptosaurus Stalks Lake County Museum

Due to erosion, fossils from the Mesozoic Era are largely missing from my native Illinois. Despite no dinosaur discoveries, Paleontologists are still pretty sure they were here – reinforced by species of the same dinos found above and below us. One of these is a theropod called Dryptosaurus; a dinosaur I’d never heard of until last week after receiving my monthly newsletter from national horror host, Svengoolie. In it, the man who designed a gorgeous replica of the animal was posing next to it at a museum I’d never heard of despite being just an hour north of me. It was time for another Prehistoric Pit Stop…

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“Sailed” Away by Safari Ltd.’s New Dimetrodon!

 As a kid, I remember playing “dinosaurs” with numerous Marx Dimetrodons – having no idea the animal wasn’t a dinosaur at all. This creature, notable for the large sail on its back, is actually a member of the synapsid family; a group of reptiles that lived over 270 million years ago and attributed to having mammal-like features. Though there’ been numerous models of the animal since, Safari Ltd. has just delivered one of the best!

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What are the Cincinnati Mammoths? (Hint: it’s not a sports team)

Before heading back to Chicago, my family and I stayed overnight in Cincinnati so we could visit their amazing zoo and say ‘hello’ to their celebrated hippo, Fiona. With a few minutes to kill before the zoo opened, we took a quick Prehistoric Pit Stop to an industrial section of the city to see a family of woolly mammoths. These beautiful, lifelike statues proudly stood in front of the city’s Natural History Museum before the building shut down and the museum moved to a new center in 1990. The mammoths were built in 1980 by artist, Neal Deaton.   

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Safari Ltd.’s 2018 Macrauchenia!

Macrauchenia is one of the more confusing prehistoric mammals ever discovered with nasal openings high on the animal’s skull suggesting a tapir-like nose. Since soft tissue doesn’t fossilize, however, this can only be theorized. What is known is that the animal lived in South America during the Pleistocene (20,000 – 10,000 years ago) in an environment, not unlike today’s African Savannah. It shared its habitat with other herbivores such as camels and ground sloths while likely serving as a favored prey item for terror birds and saber-toothed cats. Their lineage has long been debated, though recent  DNA tests may have finally revealed their place on the mammal family tree. They’re likely the last twig on a now extinct, sister branch of perissodactyls – odd number of toes/grinding molar teeth such as rhinos. And now, Safari Ltd. has added this rare and wonderful animal to their collection.

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A Prehistoric Pit Stop at the Black Hills Institute of Geological Research!

Last August, I took my kids on a South Dakota road trip while making some prehistoric pit stops along the way. At the top of the list was the Black Hills Institute of Geological Research which I’ve wanted to visit for some time. T-Rex enthusiasts know these are the folks who excavated “Sue” and “Stan” and are renowned for their marvelous replicas. To be in “dinosaur country” was particularly exhilarating for a Chicago guy like me, and I was downright giddy when we pulled into the museum’s lot that gorgeous summer evening. We would not be disappointed.

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