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Dinosaurs Undergo Robotic Revival at Valleyfair

Valleyfair's Dinosaurs Alive! exhibit features 32 animatronic beasts. Here's a sneak peek inside.

Think you know all there is to know about dinosaurs? Think again. Valleyfair's newest exhibit—Dinosaurs Alive!—will surprise adults and kids alike.

For instance, Tyrannosaurus Rex, the most deadly hunter of the Cretaceous, was feathered as a juvenile.

That's right. Feathered. Like a chicken.

"From the hatchling to subadult stage it would have had feathers for warmth, so that it didn't need to hunt and fight as often," said Teresa White, Inventory and Special Projects Manager at Dinosaurs Unearthed, the Canadian company that designed and built the five-acre addition to the park. "Once it got to be a certain size it doesn't need to retain that body heat, so it's more advantageous to shed (the feathers)." 

Feathered dinosaurs were first discovered in China's Lioaning Province in 1996. The delicate filaments were preserved in very fine ash from a volcanic eruption.

The exhibit will also feature quite a few dinosaurs that were completely unknown until recently. 

"You will see some you've never heard of. There is so much incredible research that has been coming out," White said. "In fact, we're living in the second Golden Age of dinosaur discoveries. Pretty well every week there is a new species found or a new fact that comes to light."

The company incorporated the latest data available into Dinosaurs Alive!—a fully landscaped trail studded with 32 life-size animatronic dinosaurs. Twenty-four distinct species are represented, ranging from the well-known to newly-discovered behemoths like the Ruyangosaurus.

The latter is a massive, long-necked dinosaur first uncovered in 2007, in the Henan Province of China. The Ruyangosaurus was 40 feet tall, 72 feet long, and and had a huge belly that could digest enormous amounts of raw vegetation, which the beast gulped down whole. It took crews a week just to install the Ryangosaurus, which arrived in three 40-foot containers. One container was for the skin alone. 

Visitors will be able to see it in person soon. The exhibit makes its debut on May 11, Valleyfair's opening day.

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