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University invites Calgary to visit life-sized dinosaur exhibit

The display features the skeletons of two dinosaurs and a marsupial that would have walked the earth some 65 million years ago

Wayne Haglund, professor emeritus at Mount Royal University, and Daniella Pietrocario, a fourth-year geology student, examine Nanotyrannus lancensis - one of three life-sized fossil casts of two dinosaurs and a marsupial that were unveiled on Thursday.

Elizabeth Cameron / For Metro

Wayne Haglund, professor emeritus at Mount Royal University, and Daniella Pietrocario, a fourth-year geology student, examine Nanotyrannus lancensis - one of three life-sized fossil casts of two dinosaurs and a marsupial that were unveiled on Thursday.

Students at Mount Royal University (MRU) came face-to-face with three creatures from the Cretaceous period on Thursday when a new life-sized fossil cast exhibit was unveiled.

The hand-painted display features the skeletons of two dinosaurs and a marsupial that would have walked the earth some 65 million years ago, just before a period of major extinction.

“There really is a complex story here,” said Wayne Haglund, the Professor Emeritus at MRU behind the exhibit. “(The Cretaceous period) was truly the end of the dinosaurs and the beginning of mammals.”

The display is a follow-up to the university’s Cretaceous Seas exhibit, which was completed in 2015.

The display features the skeletons of two dinosaurs and a marsupial that would have walked the earth some 65 million years ago.

Elizabeth Cameron/For Metro

The display features the skeletons of two dinosaurs and a marsupial that would have walked the earth some 65 million years ago.

Fourth-year MRU geology major Daniella Pietrocario said students now have a more complete picture of life in North America during the Cretaceous period.

“It’s really exciting and amazing that we have the opportunity to actually come and see these specimens we study in class,” she said.

“You read about them, but it’s a really different experience to be able to physically see it, stand by it, engage with it.”

Nanotyrannus lancensis, the largest skeleton of the three, is thought by some to be a juvenile tyrannosaurus rex.

“(It’s) either a juvenile form of the T-Rex or a completely different genus on its own,” Pietrocario said.

“There was a similar debate regarding the brontosaurus .. it’s just interesting, it opens up the debate about the importance of ontogeny and studying juveniles.”

Nanotyrannus lancensis.

Elizabeth Cameron/For Metro

Nanotyrannus lancensis.

The centre fossil cast, triceratops horridus, was a four-legged plant eater that could have weighed up to 12 tonnes if fully grown – the one displayed is a baby, estimated to be between one and three years old.

The marsupial skeleton, didelphodon vorax, was a pouched mammal related to the opossum, although it was semi-aquatic, like an otter.

“It’s a marsupial mind you, a relatively primitive mammal, but nonetheless, it’s a mammal and if you like, an early ancestor for us all,” said Haglund, adding the nanotyrannus lancensis is especially pivotal.

“It was basically the last dinosaur to have survived before their final extinction,” he said.

Anyone is welcome to visit the exhibit, located on the second floor of MRU’s East Gate.

Didelphodon vorax.

Elizabeth Cameron/For Metro

Didelphodon vorax.

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