Dinosaur craze pumps life into shops, museums


June 12, 1993|By Robyn L. Davis | Robyn L. Davis,Staff Writer

Dinosaurs don't exactly need the boost. But Steven Spielberg's just-released "Jurassic Park" movie will undoubtedly bolster their popularity -- who knows, maybe even beyond Barney.

Besides the burgeoning supply of generic dinosaur merchandise, "Jurassic Park" items are invading stores and even museums across the country.

Here's where you can go for more about these prehistoric creatures plus products for dinosaur-crazed children and adults.

Area dinosaurs

Beltsville was a popular stomping ground for dinosaurs, says Michael Brett-Surman, a paleontologist with the Smithsonian Institution.

"Dinosaur beds run parallel to the railroad that runs from Baltimore to D.C.," Mr. Brett-Surman says. "You could say that dinosaurs invented Route 1."

About 100 years ago, the Beltsville area was a primary spot for surface mining that turned up dinosaur material about 120 million years old, says David Weishampel, a paleobiologist at the Johns Hopkins University.

Mr. Brett-Surman speculates that dinosaur remains are abundant under Washington. "Part of a thighbone was found right beside the beltway, but now there's a warehouse on top of it," he says.

In the early 1970s in Culpeper, Va., quarry miners turned up a footprint and other dinosaur artifacts, Mr. Weishampel adds. Remnants are still being unearthed and the footprint remains in Culpeper.


If you want to take a closer look at dinosaur remains, the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History has one of the best collections in the country.

There are about 1,200 items in the collection, and more than a dozen dinosaurs. The museum also has the world's only full-scale example of Ceratosaurus.

The museum's newest piece is a tooth from the Beltsville area believed to be from a new species. But Mr. Brett-Surman says that's still being researched.

Yesterday, the dinosaur stars of "Jurassic Park" stormed the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Sponsored by the Dinosaur Society and the museum, the exhibit features the life-size dinosaurs from the movie. The museum has another dinosaur exhibit on the second floor, including a mounted barasaurus protecting its young from an allasaurus.

But the largest part of the exhibit, on the fourth floor, is in renovation.

The Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia features the infamous Tyrannosaurus rex in full scale, says Mark Driscoll, director of exhibits.

Rex is part of an exhibit called "Discovering Dinosaurs," a walking tour that allows patrons to soak up dinosaur facts. The museum houses the first dinosaur found in the United States, unearthed in Haddonfield, N.J., in 1858.

For more information, call:

* National Museum of Natural History, Washington: (202) 357-2700.

* American Museum of Natural History, New York: (212) 769-5100.

* Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia: (215) 299-1000.

Computer software

You can breathe life into dinosaurs with programs from at least three different manufacturers.

The "Dinosorcerer" program by Softdisk Inc. (for Macintosh computers) allows you to pick a head, front legs, back legs, tail and back for your dino, and gives it a Latin-based name. If you create a species that actually existed, the program has a list of facts you can call up when your species is complete. Cost: $15.95.

Two other companies make programs that act as informational sources about dinosaurs. Microsoft's "Dinosaurs" program allows users with Microsoft Windows 3.1 and a CD-ROM to choose from 16 guided tours and an index. Each tour takes five to 10 minutes to complete and includes five two-minute videos. Cost: $79.95.

California-based Knowledge Adventure Inc. began marketing "Dinosaur Adventure" in November. The program is designed for IBMs and compatible computers and does not require CD-ROM, although a CD-ROM version is available.

Users can look up dinosaurs by their size, and the time or place they lived. With the information they gain, they can play a mix-and-match game that matches either the dinosaur's name to its face or the face to the name. Cost: $49.95.


Scared your children will test your dinosaur knowledge?

Pick up a copy of Teri Degler's "Everything Your Children Wanted to Know About Dinosaurs and You Were Afraid They'd Ask" ($9.95, Waldenbooks) or "How to Talk Dinosaur With Your Children" by Q. L. Pearce ($10.95, Nature Co.).

For those who don't have to answer to children, David Norman's "Dinosaurs!" tells how the creatures were discovered and gives details on types. The Nature Nook in Ellicott City has other titles for adults, including the Maryland Geological Survey's book detailing dinosaur discoveries in the state ($5.95).

The Nature Nook also stocks "Where to Find Dinosaurs Today," by Daniel and Susan Cohen ($15).

And don't forget "Jurassic Park," the Michael Crichton book that set off the current mania. This is one of the few fictional dinosaur works for adults.

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