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Planet Dinosaur may have finished its first airing on BBC One, but don't fret, you can follow up the jaw-dropping excitement here as the Planet Dinosaur Season tour stomps into the Museum for the school half-term holidays from 24 to 30 October. (I still can't get over that bizarre Hatzegopteryx flying monster with a flat-iron-thingy on its head in the final episode!)

 

For starters, next week we are showing episode one and its Spinosaurus star (below) on the multi-screens in the Attenborough Studio twice daily. You can drop in to a Planet Dinosaur film screening morning or afternoon, Monday 24 October to Sunday 30 October.

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Planet Dinosaur's Spinosaurus (meaning thorn lizard) giant. At 17 metres, possibly the biggest killer ever to walk the earth, this beast dominated the first episode of Planet Dinosaur. Using CGI and cutting-edge graphics, narrated by John Hurt, the 6-episode BBC series looked at the new dinosaur discoveries over the last two decades.

If you fancy building a Spinosaurus yourself, then join our Build a Dinosaur events running each day over half-term week, from Monday 24 October to Sunday 30 October.

 

Piecing together realistic spinosaur bones onto a frame - including the spine, vertebra, head, jaw, skull and so on - each Build a Dinosaur group will be given an instruction guide and DVD to help work out what goes where, and get the chance to be palaeontologists at work. You have about 25 minutes to build your dinosaur, and there are other fun things to do and explore in the gallery, including the BBC's new online game.

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At the Buid a Dinosaur daily activities we're running at half-term, children over 7 and adults can join groups in the Marine Invertebrates gallery to make a large-scale, 3-metre Spinosaurus dinosaur skeleton model.  Tickets are free, but advance booking is required.

There are several dino build sessions each day, but you need to book your free Build a Dinosaur activities in advance online.

 

Discover more about Spinosaurus in the online Dino Directory

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Interestingly, not many actual Spinosaurus bones have been found, so the British-found Baryonyx fossil remains were used, along with other more stylised dinosaur body parts, as templates for the skeleton you get to build.

 

Baryonyx is intriguing because it's the most complete spinosaur skeleton ever found and so has been really important to recent research on these fish-eating dinosaurs. And Baryonyx was the first-known dinosaur to like eating fish.

 

Learn more about the Baryonyx discoveries in our new video online

 

Right: Cleaning Baryonyx in the Dinosaurs gallery during the summer refurbishment

You can see a life-size skeleton cast of Baryonyx in the Dinosaurs gallery towards the end of the gallery and some fossil bones from the dig where it was found. I highly recommend this section of the newly-refurbished gallery, which was closed for modernisation and cleaning in the summer.

 

As well as the shining skeletons, revitalised exhibits, and more atmospheric T.rex pit, the refurbished Dinosaurs gallery boasts new graphics and many updated visual displays. (Tip, if you go early in the morning, there's more chance to avoid any potential holiday queues.)

 

Visitors to the Central Hall will also be able to see another of our famous dinosaurs in a new light on their half-term visit.

 

The 300 or more bones of our iconic Diplodocus skeleton in the Central Hall - known affectionately as Dippy - are being lit up in different colours as part of our I Love Dippy appeal to renovate the Central Hall. With a text or kiosk donation you can choose from a range of colours and even get Dippy to roar.

 

Below: One of the Central Hall Light up Dippy shows you may witness over half-term if you're in the Museum.

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There are lots more free family activities planned over half-term, including puppet shows, gallery characters, the Animal Vision show, and even the sheep are staying on in the Wildlife Garden for the week. Enjoy.


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Yes today, our most iconic and much-loved Central Hall Diplodocus dinosaur display is 106 years old! And looking good on it too.

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Diplodocus carnegii in the Central Hall. The famous skeleton cast is 26 metres long and has 356 individual bones. Select image to enlarge

Thanks to King Edward VII and the Scottish-born millionaire Andrew Carnegie, Dippy - as our 26-metre-long sauropod skeleton plaster cast is affectionatey known here - was unveiled at 1pm in the Museum on 12 May 1905.

 

It was the first full skeleton of a sauropod dinosaur to go on display in the world and understandably caused a stir. Sauropods were the very large, plant-eating dinosaurs, with famously long necks and tails that lived about 150 million years ago in the Late Jurassic Period.

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Diplodocus means 'double-beam' which refers to the shape of some of the lower tail bones, called chevrons. Although there are estimations that Amphicoelias is the longest dinosaur, Dippy is still the longest dinosaur from a completely known individual.

 

A recent Museum book about Dippy written by our dinosaur expert Paul  Barrett (along with Polly Parry and Sandra Chapman), opens with this:

 

dippy-book-angle-drop-800px.jpg''Dippy is not a real skeleton, but an exact plaster replica of fossilised  bones found in the badlands of Wyoming, USA, and now housed in the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Pittsburgh. The London Diplodocus was first revealed to an astonished public in 1905 and became an instant media star, depicted in numerous newspaper cartoons and news reports. Dippy continues to enthral the public and has even had a  starring role in movies and TV shows.'

 

According to the book, visitors often ask how to pronounce Diplodocus. As the name is a combination of two Greek words, it should sound like 'dip-low-dock-us' with the emphasis on the 'dip' and the 'dock'. However, there are lots of variations on this, ranging from 'dip-low-doe-cus' to 'dip-lod-oh-cus'. I'm still not sure myself, which is probably why a lot of us just stick with Dippy.

 

Dippy: the tale of a museum icon is a great read, and is on sale in the Museum shop and our online shop.

 

Read all about Dippy's 106 years here at the Museum in the latest news story


Other dinosaur delights for our visitors and featuring animatronic models are the Age of the Dinosaur summer exhibition and the Dinosaurs gallery.

 

Find out lots of fantastic facts about Diplodocus on our Dino Directory Top 5 fact file.

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Pretty much everything in the Age of the Dinosaur exhibition, which opened today, is big.

 

Huge graphic timeline panels, vast silhouettes of prehistoric creatures, tall palm-like trees, giant skulls and teeth, and of course, towering animatronic dinosaurs. I feel sure this journey back into a world more than 65 million years old is going to be a big hit through the summer months with visitors young and old.

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Children stare in wonder at the 1.5 tonne Tarbosaurus. The last but certainly not the least, animatronic beast in the Age of the Dinosaur's Jurassic zone. This fearsome T.rex twin lived about 70 million years ago.

But there are many smaller wonders in this exhibition to look out for. Weird-looking bugs and insects nestling in the fern-filled Jurassic swamp and rocky Cretaceous desert. Dinosaur eggs - one is actually hatching - that are guarded by an Oviraptor and Protoceratops. Delicate fossil bones. Smells and sounds bouncing around. And snippets of amazing scientific facts and research that even the most hardcore dino boffins may not be familiar with.

 

Sandy Clark, our Visitor Services manager told me about the opening day which happens to be Good Friday: 'The queues in the morning at the Red Zone's ticket desks were probably the longest we've ever had, so there's a real interest in this exhibition. By about 3pm we had sold out. And then we were busy putting up signs to warn people. We actually sold about 2,000 tickets on the day. We had a few refunds I heard, but this was only because children got too scared and had to leave!'

 

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One of the huge evolutionary graphic timelines you'll encounter as you start your exhibition journey.

The exhibition gallery is arranged into two main immersive habitats, the Cretaceous and the Jurassic zones, with surrounding and central areas that showcase many spectacular specimen displays, images, fact panels and interactive tables and an underwater CGI film.

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Jurassic zone's, animatronic Archaeopteryx, the earliest known bird.

There are six roaring animatronic dinosaurs and one dino-bird. In order of who you'll meet first, they are: Camarasaurus and Archaeopteryx, both in the Jurassic zone; moving into the Cretaceous zone, there's Protoceratops with Velociraptor, who face Gallimimus, and finally round the corner, still in the Cretaceous zone, are Oviraptor and Tarbosaurus.

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Cretaceous zone's Protoceratops guards its eggs from the approaching feathery Velociraptor. Tarbosaurus is a shadowy threat in the distance.

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A spectacular Protoceratops skull. There are about seven dinosaur skulls to examine in the exhibition displays

Among the exhibits, you'll find some great interactive challenges. At the Dig It Up and Examine It tables you can piece together the evidence of how we know what the Jurassic and Cretaceous worlds were like. Also check out the kiosks, pictured below, before you leave for the chance to make an online dinosaur scrapbook. If you keep your ticket you can continue your dinosaur and fossil exploration at home on your computer.

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Examine fossils or create your own dinosaur scrapbook at one of the fun interactive tables

Enjoy it. And Happy Easter. You can book exhibition tickets online

 

Find out more about the Age of the Dinosaur exhibition

 

Oh and I'm kinda chuffed that it's my 100th What's new blog on the same day Age of the Dinosaur opened.

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Last week on Friday evening, at 6.30pm, three extra special and extra enormous visitors arrived at the Museum.

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A team of 8 people with a forklift truck moved the 1.5 tonnes Tarbosaurus into the Museum. © Oli Scarff/ Getty Images

It took three and a half hours to show our guests into the building - nothing compared to their six-week sea voyage from Tokyo though - after which they were quietly ushered through to the Waterhouse Gallery. Here they will wait in the wings while their new prehistoric home is painstakingly created.

 

The three giants, Camarasaurus, Tarbosaurus and Gallimimus, will be the big stars in Age of the Dinosaur exhibition, opening on Good Friday, 22 April.

 

Paul Gallagher, our exhibition Project Manager, explains: 'We had to rig up a temporary lighting system to help illuminate our transport route into the gallery and also construct a scaffold platform on the front steps of the Museum.'

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'I am really impressed by the skin quality and the realism of the dinosaurs up close,' says exhibition Project Manager, Paul Gallagher after inspecting the 1.5 tonnes Tarbosaurus inside the Museum. © Oli Scarff/ Getty Images

 

Now, the installation work in the Waterhouse Gallery begins. Age of the Dinosaur will take visitors back millions of year into the Jurassic and Cretaceous eras. It will feature six life-size animatronic dinosaurs, one animatronic bird, and about 75 specimens and specimen replicas with hundreds of insect, plant and tree models.

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Workmen manoeuvre the Gallimimus dinosaur model into the Museum. © Oli Scarff/ Getty Images

Next time you see these gargantuan beasts, they will be moving in the rocks, trees and watery places of their ancient world. It will be a very different encounter.

 

Read the news story about the animataronic dinosaurs' journey from Japan and arrival at the Museum

Enjoy more pictures of the animatronic dinosaurs arriving here Select the images to enlarge them. © Oli Scarff/ Getty Images

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Carefully unloading the first dinosaur outside the Museum
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Gallimimus emerges from the rear

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Gallimimus braves the bright lights

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Exhibition project manager Paul Gallagher introduces himself to Tarbosaurus

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Unveiling the head of Camarasaurus