Two-year-old Mason Carroll checks out Ankylosaurus at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History | Credit: Paul Wellman

Jurassic Park, eat your heart out. Nine grunting, growling animatronic dinosaurs have descended on the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History for its Prehistoric Forest exhibit, which just opened in the museum’s back yard. A Tyrannosaurus rex lurks among the ferns while an ankylosaurus mother tends to her young in the underbrush. An armored stegosaurus swings its spiny tail nearby.

“It’s a really exciting time for dinosaur paleontology,” said resident paleontologist Jonathan Hoffman. “Scientists are publishing newly discovered species at the rate of almost one per week.” Other neat new findings on how dinos actually looked and sounded millions of years ago have been incorporated into the exhibit. 

Researchers, for instance, used CT scans of a fossilized parasaurolophus skull crest to model its air passage and figure out what kinds of sounds the species would have emitted. And by studying how the small bones on a triceratops connected to its soft tissue, they figured out that its face was mostly covered in keratin, like a bird’s beak. The exhibit runs through Labor Day. 

Meanwhile, back across the creek, the museum is also now hosting its first full-length run of Butterflies Alive! following the complete renovation of the butterfly pavilion. On display are local species as well as more exotic varieties, including swallowtails, longwings, and White Peacocks. Inside the Santa Barbara Gallery is the emergence chamber, where guests can watch butterflies crawl from their chrysalides and dry their wings before they flutter into the pavilion. 


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