3 museums let you imagine life on earth 65 million years ago

I have a paleontology quiz for you. True or false: No dinosaurs ever chased human beings — to eat them alive or for whatever purpose — except in a science fiction story.
Look for the answer and an explanation at the bottom of this story.

Of the world’s three largest dinosaur museums, one is located in Canada and the others are in Japan and China. All three facilities share the unique characteristic of being built in inland areas – so they could be close to sites where the extinct animals’ skeletons were discovered.

China’s Zigong Dinosaur Museum in Zigong City, Sichuan Province opened in a small corner of a spacious (62 square kilometer) park in January 1987. This facility boasts “thousands of fossils.”

The Royal Tyrrell Museum (for Paleontology) “opened our doors on September 25, 1985 and during our first year of operations we surpassed all expectations, attracting over 500,000 visitors,” says the museum’s website.

This museum is operated by the Alberta Cultural and Community Spirit in Drumheller, Alberta, and appears to be running a successful educational program. About 26,000 students participate in seminars centering on paleontology every year, although the initial burst of enthusiasm was followed by a declining number of visitors to less than 400,000 a year.

Children are awestruck by the huge dinosaur skeletons. The royal museum maintains more than 50 complete skeletons. In its scientific explanation, the museum reports that its collection contains 130,000 specimens and grows at a rate of 2,000 specimens a year.
Headlines of recent press releases suggest exciting activity. Here are samples: “New species of horned dinosaur unveiled” (undated); “New dinosaur [hadrosaur] find near Leduc, Alberta” (undated); “Royal Tyrrell Museum finds new species of fossil fish” (March 2013); and “Fort McMurray road construction site exposes marine reptile fossil” (December 2012).

The museum was named after geologist Joseph Burr Tyrrell (1858-1957) “who stumbled upon the skull of Canada’s first meat-eating dinosaur while prospecting for coal on behalf of the Geological Survey of Canada.”

The Alberta museum signed a sister-museum agreement with Fukui Prefectural Dinosaur Museum at Katsuyama City, Fukui, near Kyoto, in November 2000.

The Japanese museum’s pre-history goes back to 1982, when a fossilized tooth of a crocodile was found near a river. A crocodile’s skeleton was unearthed soon afterward together with the bones of a dinosaur, which paved the way to the museum’s opening in 2000.

The Fukui museum owns 42 complete dinosaur skeletons, including a grass-eating Fukuisaurus, in addition to a robot replica of Tyrannosaurus Rex. The museum is overseen by the prefectural government’s sightseeing business division, and reported more than 700,000 visitors in each of the last two fiscal years.

Answer to quiz: true. Dinosaurs and people lived in different times. Dinosaurs died out about 65 million years ago, when the Cretaceous Period ended. Homo sapiens did not appear on earth until 3 million-7 million years ago.

By Shota Ushio, freelance writer based in Tokyo

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