Diggin' For Dinosaurs - California Academy & LA County

An adjoining room shows what was happening with sea creatures during the age of the dinosaurs. It includes a cast of the largest fish ever found, an ocean diorama containing nautilus and squid models, and a real ammonite fossil of gigantic proportions.

The strangest-looking model hangs overhead in the next hall. It's Quetzalcoatlus, a pterosaur with a 45-foot wingspan, resembling an overgrown pelican with fur. Across the room, a display of bulky sauropod legs contains some real fossils that visitors can touch.

The biggest attraction for kids here is the Terrible Claw diorama showing a hunting pack of three fleshed-out Deinonychus, lunging from a forest with their sicklelike claws poised to slash. It's the best photo-op in the exhibit, where parents coach their kids, "Okay, act scared now," before snapping a picture. Around the back of the diorama, a furtive, shrew-like mammal cowers near the gurgling creek. A submerged crocodile and some insects complete the Cretaceous scene.

Just beyond the diorama is the Tyrannosaurus rex corner. Overhead, at its proper height, is a cast of the mighty predator's skull. The impressive view of its teeth and head makes you feel like an hors d'oeuvre. A section of a jaw and a real tooth allow a closer, albeit fragmented view.

A diorama depicting a fossil dig in Montana has a crushed Triceratops skull and some other real bone fragments along with the tools of the trade: chisels, brushes, and field notebooks. An entertaining video shows how fossils are found and how much work it takes to bring them back from the field.

That's the "end of the line" for dinosaurs in Life Through Time, except, as the text panel reminds you, for the birds. If you can't bear to part with dinosaurs, though, head for the main entrance of the museum, which is dominated by a skeleton cast of T. rex.

Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, California

Despite being among the largest and oldest museums in the country, the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County got into the dinosaur business relatively late. In the 1960s, museum leaders realized that they were missing the boat on these crowd-attracting magnets and raised money for a series of dinosaur-collecting expeditions to the Hell Creek Formation in Montana. The out-of-state forays netted an impressive array of duckbilled dinosaur skeletons, Triceratops skulls, and the skull and foot of a Tyrannosaurus (the largest and most complete T. rex skull then known).

These fossils, along with others bought or swapped in exchange for pieces from the museum's extensive collection of Ice Age mammals and other vertebrates, form the core of the dinosaur displays.

The biggest attraction is the Dueling Dinosaurs mount in the main foyer of the museum's upper level. In a dramatic reconstruction using real and cast bones, a towering, gap-mouthed Tyrannosaurus is about to munch a fleeing Triceratops (the scene is re-created outside the museum entrance with full-scale bronze statues and is truly a sight to seeā€¦ not what you'd expect to see in Los Angeles).

Continued in: Diggin' For Dinosaurs - LA County Natural History Museum

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