HAYS, KS -- Saturday, April 20, will be a banner day at Fort Hays State University and its Sternberg Museum of Natural History for anyone with an interest in dinosaurs, fossils and paleontology.
The cast of a new specimen will be unveiled by a world-famous paleontologist, who will also deliver a free public presentation that night on significant new information about predatory dinosaurs, and in between those two will be the finals of the first-ever Kansas Dinosaur Bee.
And, oh, yeah, there is also the nation's largest touring dinosaur exhibit, which is still on display at the Sternberg Museum.
Dr. Philip J. Currie will unveil the skull cast of a specimen of Tarbosaurus bataar, recently recovered in Mongolia, at 1 p.m. at Fort Hays State University's Sternberg Museum of Natural History.
Immediately afterward, 33 primary and secondary students from across the state will compete in the finals of the Dinosaur Bee, emceed by Donald "Dino Don" Lessem, children's author, Jurassic Park movie advisor and producer of the largest touring dinosaur exhibit, "Jurassic Park: The Life and Death of Dinosaurs."
To cap off the day, Currie, curator of dinosaurs at the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology in Drumheller, Alberta, Canada, will speak on "Hunting Behavior in Predatory Dinosaurs," at 7 p.m. in the Fort Hays Ballroom of the Memorial Union on the FHSU campus.
An expert on meat-eating dinosaurs, Currie has been working in Mongolia each summer since 1996 with Nomadic Expeditions (New Jersey) and the Mongolian Academy of Sciences. In recent years, the expeditions have recovered two juvenile Tarbosaurus specimens. Tarbosaurus is the Asian version of Tyrannosaurus rex and is thought by some scientists to be the direct ancestor of the world's favorite dinosaur.
The winner of the Dinosaur Bee will get to choose between a week on a dinosaur dig or a trip to the Universal Studios Theme Park in Orlando, FL.
The dinosaur dig option of the first-place prizes includes a cast of a fossil bone from the world's largest known dinosaur. The second-place winner will receive whichever option is not chosen by the first-place winner. The third-place prize is a $100 gift certificate to the Sternberg Museum Store.
Also, the teacher named by the first-place winner will receive an award of dinosaur prizes provided by Dinosaur Productions Inc., the company founded by Lessem.
Other prizes from Dinosaur Productions will also be given to the competitors in the final round at the Sternberg Museum.
Currie's lecture will be the third in a series presented by the Sternberg Museum to enhance the museum's "Jurassic Park: The Life and Death of Dinosaurs" exhibit, which runs until May 5.
Currie said that the recent discoveries provide invaluable information in a 10-year-old debate on whether Tyrannosaurus rex was primarily a predator or a scavenger. To some scientists, it seems inconceivable that an animal as large as T. rex would have been capable of pursuing and capturing prey. He noted that a paper released in Nature last month gave some credence to this viewpoint because it revealed that the king of the dinosaurs was incapable of running faster than 12 miles per hour.
However, Currie said, the new finds of juvenile Tarbosaurus reveal that young tyrannosaurs were very different kinds of animals than the adults. Sleek and lightly built, they were among the very fastest runners in the Cretaceous world. Their body proportions are the same as those of ostrich-mimic dinosaurs, animals whose running capabilities are often compared with ostriches.
He said the fact that young tyrannosaurs traveled with the adults in packs has been revealed by the excavation of a bone bed near the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology in the badlands of Alberta.
The Tarbosaur unveiling and the Dinosaur Bee are both in conjunction with the current traveling exhibit at the Sternberg Museum, "Jurassic Park: The Life and Death of Dinosaurs." It is the largest collection of dinosaur skeletons currently traveling the United States and includes several species never before seen in North America. A dozen mounted skeletons are displayed with a dozen "fleshed-out sculptures" of species and also props and sculptures from the movies Jurassic Park and Lost World.
The exhibit includes fossil casts, sculptures, movie props and actual fossils, which include amber specimens, fish, turtles and a clutch of dinosaur eggs excavated in China as well as the fully mounted specimens and others represented by individual bones.
Tickets are available by calling, toll free, 1-877-332-1165 or by visiting www.jparkdinos.com. Pre-sale ticket prices are $6 for adults, $4 for children and senior citizens. At the door it will be $7 adults, $5 children and senior citizens.
"Jurassic Park: The Life and Death of Dinosaurs," developed by Don Lessem, is a production of Amblin Entertainment, Universal Studios and MCA/Universal Merchandising Inc.