© New Zealand Broadcasting School 2024

Jurassic Park arrives at Canterbury Museum

Georgie Hanafin
T-Rex skeleton at Canterbury Museum  Georgie Hanafin

Until recently, scientists thought dinosaurs looked like lizards, with smooth scaly skin coloured in greys, greens and browns. But could the t-rex have had feathers?

Senior Curator of Natural History, Dr Paul Scofield on Canterbury Museum's rEvolution Dinosaur Exhibit

Canterbury Museum’s Senior Curator of Natural History Dr Paul Scofield says for decades, dinosaurs have been imagined as dull-coloured, scaly, reptiles with teeth designed for tearing flesh and claws impossible to get away from.

Now, he says, new fossils found in China have given scientists a glimpse into a different Jurassic Park and the true nature of our favourite pre-historic dinosaurs.

The remains found included skin, soft tissue, spines, and surprisingly, feathers, suggesting some dinosaurs were more closely related to birds than we realised.

dino cpolour compr
Dinosaur rEvolution: Secrets of Survival - Canterbury Museum Georgie Hanafin

The idea many dinosaurs were covered in feathers ranging from soft and downy like a duck, to beautiful and colourful with iridescent sheens similar to a peacock, can be hard to envision. They also had horns, spikes, quills.

With the help of Dr Scofield, the museum was able to secure Gondwana Studio’s Dinosaur rEvolution which tells the story of two branches of the dinosaur family, the Ornithischia, or bird-hipped dinosaur, and the Saurischia, or lizard-hipped dinosaur.

Kirsty Wilkinson
Alex Aitken-Wilkinson (10) left and Cohen Williamson (10) right Kirsty Wilkinson

Christchurch mum Kristy Wilkinson took sons Alex and Cohen, both aged 10, last week and said the overall experience was great. 

"Cohen has always been obsessed with dinos," she said. 

"From a young age he could identify dinosaurs that I had never even heard of."

The cost of admission had been a bone of contention online, with some parents complaining the time it took them to walk through wasn't worth the price.

Dr Scofield said putting together an exhibition such as this costs "a great deal of money" and the cover charge is to help offset this. 

"An exhibition like this is put together overseas," he said. 

"Each of those facsimile skeletons are worth in the region of $100,000 dollars."

A cost Kristy reckons was well worth it.

"We probably spent an hour there looking at the dinos and reading the bits of info dotted around. They really loved the moving dinos and all the skeletons!"

Dinosaur rEvolution is on at the Canterbury Museum until 24 October 2022. The exhibition features four life-sized, moving dinosaurs, skeletons, touchable fossil casts, and artworks that reimagine what dinosaurs really looked like.

Tickets can be purchased at the door.

Adults: $10
Children (under 15 years): $5
Children (under 3 years): Free
Small Family Pass (1 Adult and up to 2 children): $18
Large Family Pass (2 Adults and up to 3 children): $28