This summer, the NC Aquarium on Roanoke Island is giving a big welcome to some BIG visitors. From May 26 through Sept. 4, aquarium guests can wander into prehistory to find five species of life-sized dinosaurs along the winding paths of the aquarium’s Nature Trail. They move, they roar, and they’re ready to meet you. Here’s a peek into world of these magnificent prehistoric reptiles:
Parasaurolophus: This duck-billed dinosaur’s elongated, bony head crest was more than just a fashion statement. Scientists think that hollow nasal passages running along the crest’s length allowed Parasaurolophus to use its headpiece like a trumpet, creating loud, resonating calls. Experiments on a model of the skull and crest produced a low, B-flat sound, similar to that used by elephants to call over long distances.
Stegosaurus: Though they are its most distinguishing feature, the exact purpose of the two rows of triangular plates lining Stegosaurus’ back remains a mystery. Long believed to have been used for defense, the plates were too thin to make for good armor. It is now thought that the plates were lined with blood vessels that could help Stegosaurus regulate its body temperature, similar to a rabbit’s large ears.
Triceratops: If any dinosaur could be described as headstrong, it would be the Triceratops. Its enormous skull could reach 10 feet in length and was adorned with three sharp horns, a bony neck frill, and a parrot-like beak. Injuries found on fossils suggest that Triceratops used its horns and frill in combat, perhaps even battling the mighty jaws of a hungry Tyrannosaurus.
Ankylosaurus: A relative of Stegosaurus, Ankylosaurus was the Cretaceous period’s equivalent of a tank. Rows of flat, bony plates and formidable spikes covered its stocky body and head like a suit of armor. Behind it swung a tail bearing a large “club” of bone, which was likely used as a defense against hungry predators.
Tyrannosaurus Rex: Growing to almost the length of a school bus and standing 15 feet tall, Tyrannosaurus Rex, or T. Rex for short, was one of the largest carnivores to ever walk the Earth. T. Rex’s massive skull weighed around 600 pounds and housed more than 50 banana-sized conical teeth, which evidence suggests were shed periodically throughout its lifetime.
Guests at the NC Aquarium on Roanoke Island can experience dinosaur encounters through September 4 with regular aquarium admission.
Colleen Shytle is Exhibits Curator and, most recently, Dinosaur Wrangler at the NC Aquarium on Roanoke Island.