Denizens of the Mesozoic coming to Sternberg Museum: Major exhibit built from private collection features specimens from all primary dinosaur groups of 185-million-year era

Representatives of the Mesozoic Era of geologic time, including the Tyrannosaurus rex known as Stan, have arrived at Fort Hays State University's Sternberg Museum of Natural History for an extended stay.

"T. rex cetera: Dinosaurs and Other Mesozoic Monsters," opening May 24 and running until March 29, 2009, features Stan, at 70 percent the second most complete Tyrannosaurus skeleton ever found, and more than 30 other full skeletons of animals that lived during the 185-million-year span of the Mesozoic Era, comprising the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. Also included are almost 40 other specimens, including many skulls and other bones.

The exhibition showcases fossil casts from the private collection of Dr. Jack Hankla, a Danbury, Ky., dentist, whose interest in paleontology and fossil collecting has resulted in one of the most significant private collections in the United States.

"We decided to go with all fossil casts, primarily because the actual fossils are just too heavy and can't be put together for an open-mount display," said Greg Walters, exhibits director of the Sternberg Museum.

"This exhibit has never been seen anywhere before," he said, explaining that it is compiled from Hankla's collections. Some of the individual specimens have been loaned out for various displays, but this is the largest exhibit ever constructed from the Hankla specimens. Some individual pieces have never been displayed anywhere.

That is one reason the exhibit will take more than a month to go up. The pieces arrived at the Sternberg on April 4, but museum personnel and a shifting cast of museum volunteers will have to assemble the skeletons and construct individual displays.

Walters said the exhibit has representatives from every major group of dinosaurs that lived during the Mesozoic Era -- the various tyrannosaurs, carnosaurs, raptors, stegosaurs, ankylosaurs, hadrosaurs, ceatopsians, sauropods and others. It also includes non-dinosaurs such as mosasaurs, plesiosaurs, crocodiles, a complete giant turtle Archelon (15 feet from flipper to flipper), flying reptiles and others.

The fossils from which the casts were made were found on five continents and lived in the air, on land and in the seas.

Museum hours are 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday and 1 to 7 p.m. Sunday. The museum is closed on Mondays. Admission for non-members is $6 for adults (ages 13 to 59), $4 for seniors (60 and over) and youths (ages 4 through 12), and $3 for FHSU students with student ID. Admission is free for museum members and children age 3 and under.

Memberships range from the $20 annual Student Membership (for K-12 or FHSU students) up through the $1,000 lifetime Pteranodon Club. Membership includes, among other benefits, free admission to the Sternberg and to more than 250 other museums and science centers worldwide, 10-percent discounts at the Sternberg Store, advance notice of museum programs and invitations to members-only events.

For more information on membership, go to the Sternberg Museum Web site from the link on the home page.

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