Media release: World first exhibition showcasing ancestors of Tyrannosaurus rex

Sydney, NSW: 28 August, 2013: In a world first, the Australian Museum presents Tyrannosaurs – Meet the Family, an innovative, multimedia experience showcasing the newly-revised tyrannosaur family tree.

With over 10 life-sized dinosaur specimens on display, including one of the oldest tyrannosaurs, Guanlong wucaii, the exhibition runs from 23 November 2013 to 27 July 2014.

Showcasing a dramatic array of fossils and casts of tyrannosaur specimens, including never-before-seen specimens from China, Tyrannosaurs – Meet the Family is designed to provide a snapshot of dinosaur life and show how this group became the world’s top predators with their massive skulls, powerful jaws and bone-crunching teeth.
With many family activities included, key highlights of the exhibition are:

  • An Australian-first immersive multimedia experience featuring large-scale, immersive projections of dinosaurs running through Sydney streets
  • The first exhibition to showcase the revised tyrannosaur family tree
  • Meet Guanlong wucaii – the newly discovered feathery relative of T. rex
  • Discover and learn how recent scientific findings confirm the links between dinosaurs and birds
  • Using multi-touch technologies, visitors can compare their arm strength to that of a mighty T. rex
  • Grasp the enormous scale of geological time in the context of human evolution

Minister for Tourism, Major Events and the Arts, George Souris, said: “The NSW Government, through our tourism and major events agency Destination NSW, is proud to support this key cultural event on the NSW Events Calendar. The Australian Museum is renowned for delivering high-quality exhibitions that inform, entertain and attract large audiences. Tyrannosaurs will further position the Australian Museum and New South Wales as the destination for internationally significant cultural experiences in Australia.”

Current scientific research is causing the world’s most popular dinosaur, Tyrannosaurus rex (T. rex), to be re-evaluated. Though one of the first tyrannosaurs to be discovered, T. rex – the swift, flesh-eating apex predator – was actually the last in a long dinosaur dynasty that appeared 165 million years ago and perished 100 million years later.

During the past five years, paleontologists have discovered T. rex’s smaller ancestors. One of these, Guanlong wucaii, is among the most primitive tyrannosaurs known, hunting 90 million years before T. rex. Discoveries like these are changing the story of the evolution of tyrannosaurs, and this fossil helps make the case that feathers originated in dinosaurs before they became used for flight in birds. In small, flightless dinosaurs like Guanlong wucaii, feathers may have evolved as an essential piece of equipment for staying warm.
The latest dinosaur finds by Chinese palaeontologist Xing Xu and his team were discovered together in Northwestern China preserved in layers of shale, mudstone and volcanic ash. Shedding light on what life was like 160 million years ago for this group of dinosaurs, these discoveries have cemented the evolutionary link between dinosaurs and birds. Even with mass extinction events 65 million years ago, some dinosaurs survived and continued to evolve into the modern birds we live with today.

With a name meaning ‘crown dragon’, Guanlong wucaii lived 160 million years ago in the late Jurassic period, its eponymous spectacular head crest running along its snout from nostril to eye socket. Fragile, hollow and made from fused nasal bones, the crest may have been used to attract a mate.

Not a typical tyrannosaur, Guanlong wucaii had long arms and three-fingered hands for grabbing and ripping. But the shape of its teeth, skull and pelvis all link it to the tyrannosaur group. The diminutive dinosaur stood 1.1 metres tall at the hip, and measured 3 metres in length.

Dr Meng Qingin, Director of Beijing Museum of Natural History said, “This is an incredible discovery with tremendous new information on the evolution of the tyrannosaurs. Similar in appearance to ornamental features seen in birds like cassowaries and hornbills, the crest on Guanlong wucaii may have been used for display.”

Continuing he said, “It was generally accepted that birds were descended from dinosaurs. People had found many dinosaurs that shared striking similarities with early birds, yet a few things didn't quite fit. The time sequence didn't seem to be correct, for instance. Most of these bird-like dinosaurs were from the Cretaceous, from 145 million to 65 million years ago, but the earliest known bird, Archaeopteryx, was much older - from the Jurassic, 200 million to 145 million years ago. Also, if birds were descended from dinosaurs, you would predict that their dinosaur ancestors should have feathers or feather-like structures. These fossil finds now link these two theories.”

Australian Museum Director Frank Howarth commented, “As witnessed in recent news, with exciting new discoveries, we are so enthralled with dinosaurs. Their popularity has never waned and they continue to ‘evolve’ in popular culture. Fossils are the building blocks of everything we know about these awe-inspiring creatures, and this exhibition is designed to provide visitors with a continuum of discovery and scientific inquiry from the very latest breakthroughs and research programs.”

To complement the exhibition, the Australian Museum has programmed a large array of public events to suit members and visitors of all ages, from childrens activities such as museum sleepovers, torchlight tours, dinosaur-themed museum hunts through to a lecture series and After-5 program for adults. At these events, leading authorities will discuss topics such as science ethics, the philosophy of existence and animal evolution, as well as providing an insight into the future science, with topics like cloning, extinctions and robots.

Mr Howarth said, “The Australian Museum is a place for everyone. It’s our aim to ensure that the broadest possible audience has access to the wide range of activities and experiences we offer, from exhibitions to tours, lectures, themed nights and everything in between. We want to ensure all communities have access to the Australian Museum experience, and through this exhibition, Tyrannosaurs – Meet the Family, we aim to be one of the most innovative and influential museums of nature and culture in the world.”

Editor’s Note: featured specimens in the exhibition include: Guanlong wucaii, Alioramus, Tarbosaurus, Daspletosaurus, Albertosaurus, Appalachiosaurus, Gorgosaurus, Teratophoneus.

Tyrannosaurs: Meet the Family exhibition dates: 23 November 2013 – 27 July 2014

Media requests: Claire Vince / 02 9320 6181 / 0421 617 019

Press kit, high-resolution images and TVC are available: www.australianmuseum.net.au/tyrannosaurs


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