The Dinosaurs are back! | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

The Dinosaurs are back!

High desert brings creatures back to life

Dinosaurs may have been blasted into extinction—or starved to death—some 70 million years ago, but in every kid's imagination they're still with us, and capable of making life more exciting than homework, or even computer games.

The High Desert Museum's new exhibit, "Be the Dinosaur: Life in the Cretaceous," has combined interactive video simulations with traditional displays and fossil specimens in a dramatic exhibit that will breathe life into the Age of the Dinosaur, and answers these common questions...What was it like to be a dinosaur? What did they do all day? What did their habitats look like? What did they eat? What color were they?

The museum, in collaboration with Eureka Exhibits, Paleo Lands Institute and the University of Oregon, and sponsored by BendBroadband with support from The James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation, is presenting this extraordinary exhibit running through Sept. 15, the exhibit includes a replicated T. rex skull, along with allosaurus and mosasaur fossils.

With rock formations and fossils as their only clues, paleontologists have pieced together a clear picture of the species, climate, ecosystems, habitats, behavior, and ecology of prehistoric plant and animal communities of the Cretaceous Period. These same tools will be available to young paleontologists who come to the museum and get involved with the interactive displays.

The Cretaceous (145.5 to 65.5 million years ago) was the last age of the dinosaurs. With the appearance of modern insects, mammals, birds and flowering plants, it is considered the turning point between extinct prehistoric life and the modern plant and animal communities.

This time period is also known for its extraordinary marine life. Sea levels were higher during most of the Cretaceous than any other period on Earth's history. Large areas of North America were under water, including most of modern Oregon.

Roaming these prehistoric marine environments were the lions and tigers of the sea. These extinct predators included the ichthyosaur, mosasaur, and plesiosaur—large finned reptiles with formidable teeth. In fact, ichthyosaur and plesiosaur specimens have been found in the Cretaceous rock formations in Central Oregon, and in Nevada there is a state park named for the abundant ichthyosaur fossils found there.

Ichthyosaurs—Greek for "fish lizard"—were actually marine reptiles 7 to 13 feet in length, resembling dolphins. They thrived during much of the Mesozoic era, some 245 million years ago, and at least one species survived until about 90 million years ago, into the early Cretaceous, and are found today as fossils at a quarry near Mitchell.

The High Desert Museum will be displaying fossil specimens of these extraordinary marine reptiles in conjunction with terrestrial dinosaur specimens. Visitors will leave with a vivid impression of the diversity of life on land and at sea in the Cretaceous.

The High Desert Museum is a nationally acclaimed nonprofit museum, with wildlife displays, live historical performances, Native American and Western art, and educational programs for all ages.

Summer Hours: 9 am–5 pm daily through Oct. 31. Adults, $15; ages 65 plus, $12; ages 5-12, $9; 4 and younger, free. (541)-382-4754,

The museum provides a critical service to Oregon schools. The science and social studies curricula serve more than 10,000 schoolchildren and teachers every year with enriching, hands-on education, as well as programs taken directly to classrooms by a trained volunteer staff.

Under the heading of Unsolicited Advice: Plan ahead, because you're going to have to drag your kids away from the interactive dinosaur exhibits!

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