By Dan Majka
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — We often read, see movies and shows or even exhibits about dinosaurs that roamed the Earth millions of years ago. But what about those enormous and deadly marine monsters that ruled the Jurassic seas? Adventure Aquarium’s Dinosaurs of the Deep offers visitors a chance to dive into the past and discover what it was like deep beneath the oceans’ surface during prehistoric times.
“Dinosaurs of the Deep is an exploration into the underwater world,” says Adventure Aquarium’s Melissa Kanaly. “When dinosaurs walked the planet, there were some really amazing creatures that were hunting the oceans, and you often don’t hear about them. So we are uncovering the mysteries of the ocean and connecting the past with the present.”
Guests will come face-to-face with life-sized replicas of some of the most ferocious and feared species that ever lived, including the centerpiece of the exhibit, a 42-foot Elasmosaurus.
“This guy had a super long neck,” Kanaly says. “When you walk into the aquarium he’s dangling above your head, so you get a real idea for how large this creature was in comparison to you. He was an ambush hunter, so he’d stick his head right in silently and chomp up the fish, and that’s why he had such a long neck.”
So what exactly did it look like deep under water during the age of the dinosaurs? A 40-foot prehistoric reef gives visitors an intricate look into the coral reefs of the ancient seas and a chance to learn about the prehistoric fish who inhabited them.
“There’s all kinds of creatures in there,” says Kanaly, “including a large Nothosaurus and some other really cool dinosaur-sounding creatures, like a bony fish called a Dunkleosteus, which is actually 16-feet long, and definitely pretty impressive in comparison to the fish we see today.”
But the pièce de résistance, Kanaly says, is the Liopleurodon, a 34-foot recreation of the actual creature, who would use its powerful jaw muscles to drive four-inch teeth into its prey.
“This guy had an enormous mouth that took up a large percentage of his overall body, and when you walk in he’s sort of looming over you,” she says. “We kind of positioned him perfectly so you could take a selfie with ‘Lio.’ He’s really cool and definitely a can’t miss as part of this exhibit.”
Kanaly says the exhibit caters to both the casual guest and those a bit “nerdier” who want to dive a little deeper into the details about these animals. She says there’s plenty to see and read, but also a lot of hands on activities.
“We have a turtle area which connects the turtles of today to the Protostega of prehistoric times who was 15-feet long,” she says. “He was just amazing. He’s an Archelon, actually. And when you walk over there you can actually touch a turtle skull and try to guess which turtle these skulls belong to.”
Kanaly says these underwater creatures have always taken a back seat to terrestrial dinosaurs, so it was especially important that the aquarium send guests of the exhibit home having learned a lot about them.
“Where the Liopleurodon is, we have a projection that shows you pretty much all of the really cool stuff that lived in the ocean’s past,” she says. “It’s not significant to one time period, it’s really all of the cool stuff. And through the projection you’ll learn the names of each animal, what they looked like, what they ate.”
And even if you don’t dig dinosaurs, no worries. Kanaly says there’s still plenty for you sink your teeth into.
“Even if you’re not a dinosaur enthusiast, just being around these big creatures makes you have a good understanding of what it would have been like to be in the ocean in prehistoric times,” she says. “Anyone who has any affection for the ocean or large creatures or is just curious about the planet in general will enjoy this.”
Listen to the podcast: