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Tyrannosaurs Exhibit Fact Sheet

Tyrannosaurs - Meet the Family is the world’s first exhibit showcasing ancestors of the Tyrannosaurus rex. On exhibit from February 3 to April 30, 2017.

Tyrannosaurs – Meet the Family, an innovative, hands-on immersive exhibit showcasing the newly-revised tyrannosaur family tree. Come face to face with life-sized dinosaur skeletons, including ‘Scotty’ the Tyrannosaurus rex and one of the oldest tyrannosaurs, Guanlong wucaii.

Tyrannosaurs – Meet the Family makes its North American premiere at the Waterloo Region Museum in Kitchener, Ontario from February 3 to April 30, 2017.

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: 

  • 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 
  • Download a free Tyrannosaurs app and have fun hatching dinosaur eggs and collecting them whilst discovering secrets behind this formidable dinosaur family

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.”

Featured specimens in the exhibition include: Guanlong wucaii, Dilong, Tarbosaurus, Daspletosaurus, Albertosaurus, Appalachiosaurus, Gorgosaurus, Teratophoneus and Tyrannosaurus rex.