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January 22, 2010
Press Release: Martinsville Bulletin

Friday, January 22, 2010

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer

Starting this weekend, visitors at the Virginia Museum of Natural History can step back in time and learn about animals that existed millions of years ago.

A new exhibit, "Messages from the Mesozoic," will open Saturday and run through Sept. 18 at the museum on Starling Avenue in Martinsville.

Ryan Barber, the museum's director of marketing and external affairs, said the exhibit is designed to help visitors learn about different types of fossils, as well as how they are formed and where they are found.

Museum visitors can examine and compare different specimens of dinosaurs, as several large skeleton casts of dinosaurs will be on display. They include a 40-foot-long Acrocanthosaurus and a 12-foot-long feathered Deinonychus, both of which date back more than 100 million years.

The dinosaurs on display are believed to have roamed in Virginia and other places, Barber said.

"Despite the many discoveries of animals, plants and dinosaur tracks found in Virginia, there has never been an actual fossilized dinosaur body part found in the commonwealth," he said.

The only pieces of evidence of dinosaurs in Virginia found so far are footprints, or other trace fossils - records of the movement of dinosaurs left in mud or fine sand and preserved over millions of years in layers of sedimentary rock, Barber added.

The exhibit opens as part of Saturday's "Dino Day" festival at the museum. Activities will include a "dino dig pit" where people use paleontology tools to uncover fossil casts, dinosaur-themed children's craft activities and dinosaur films in the museum's Hooker Furniture Theater.

Presentations on dinosaurs will be made by Dorothy Belle Poli, assistant professor of biology at Roanoke College, and Alton Dooley Jr., associate curator of paleontology at the museum.

Also, children can participate in a Dino Day puppet show and demonstrate their acting skills, Barber said.

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