It's not exactly Jurassic Park, but it's close

25th February 2005 at 00:00
DINOSAURS ALIVE! Royal Museum Edinburgh until May 8. Tel 0131 247 4041

If the queue for Dinosaurs Alive! on opening day is anything to go by, it looks as if it is going to be a blockbuster exhibition for the Royal Museum. It seems we just can't get enough of Tyrannosaurus rex and co.

The 20 prehistoric reptiles on show, created by the Japanese animatronic specialists Kokoro, have come from the Natural History Museum in London. They not only move in a realistic way, they also roll their eyes and open their mouths and roar, exposing rows of shiny, pointed teeth.

The Royal Museum has created a unique setting for the dinosaurs, placing them in dramatically spotlit arid landscapes and woodland forests of the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. Imagine nine species of dinosaurs have been caught and put in a park and you will get an idea of what is on show.

The helpful information panels at each "enclosure" explain where the animals lived, how big they grew and their diet. In the case of Dilophosaurus, the first dinosaur visitors meet, what the "double crested reptile" ate is all too obvious because we can see it poking at the remains of a little plant-eating Scutellosaurus.

Just past a group of three Oviraptors (meaning "egg robbers"), a Baryonyx has used its spear-like claw to catch a fish. The model was based on the first complete skeleton of a Baryonyx to be found, in a clay pit near London in 1987.

The ankylosaurs are described as "prehistoric battle tanks" and the long-legged, ostrich-like bipedal Ornithormimus certainly looks as if it could run "faster than an Olympic sprinter".

The area that is attracting the most attention features a group of Triceratops (one large male, two females and four babies) under attack from a mother and daughter team of tyrannosaurs. The three-horned plant-eating giants, who have a massive bony neck frill, seem to be holding their own against the theropods. Will one of their number eventually be overcome by a seven tonne, 13 mph, "tyrant reptile killing machine"?

If its prey was not crushed by its massive jaws, tyrannosaurs would wait for it to die of blood poisoning. Research has shown that meat trapped in its jagged-edged teeth would rot and produce not only terrible bad breath but a mouthful of deadly bacteria.

The sight and sound of one animatronic Pachycephalosaurus clashing heads with another is dramatic even if it isn't strictly correct. Recent research has shown that the dome-headed dinosaurs did not bang their heads together when they were fighting but probably butted each other on the shoulder or flank.

Dinosaurs Alive! has been designed to appeal to 7s to 12s, but even 3-year-olds find it enthralling.

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