Run for the hills! It’s a T. rex!
Fear not, these dinosaurs are here to educate, not terrify. The popular exhibit “Prehistoric Forest” is returning this month outside the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History.
They’re turning the wooded area at Mission Creek into a Jurassic park. That’s where you’ll find Tyrannosaurus rex, Stegosaurus, Triceratops, Parasaurolopus and Euoplocephalus.
The exhibit will open Feb. 17 for a preview for museum members, and everyone can start seeing the dinosaurs starting Feb. 20. The museum is located at 2559 Puesta del Sol.
For safe distancing, attendance is limited, and reservations are required. To make one, go to sbnature.org/tickets. Masks are required for ages 3 and up, and the museum’s indoor exhibits remain closed.
In 2019, “Prehistoric Forest” led to record-breaking numbers of guests at the museum. As soon as the dinosaurs left, people started asking when they would return.
The dinosaurs came back Jan. 18 for their outdoor installation, and exhibits and facilities staff undertook the challenging task of installing the heavy animatronics while following new health and safety guidelines.
In a statement, the museum said the process went smoothly, thanks to careful planning by Exhibits Lead Francisco Lopez.
The animatronic dinosaurs are accompanied by plaques drafted in consultation with Dr. Jonathan Hoffman, the Dibblee curator of earth science, and paleobiologist Jenna J. Rolle, who teaches dinosaur classes at Santa Barbara City College and works for the museum’s education division.
Dr. Hoffman and Ms. Rolle are emphasizing the fact that paleontology is dynamic. Researchers are constantly updating what they know about the history of life, and in that spirit, some of the exhibit’s plaques are getting updated.
For example, guests may remember the Ankylosaurus from the 2019 exhibit. Experts now say that it more closely resembles a relative, Euoplocephalus. The sign accompanying this dinosaur family — a mother and two juveniles — is getting an update.
New research hasn’t led to the exhibit’s T. rex getting updated with feathers.
But Ms. Rolle noted there is evidence for primitive feathers among the larger group of dinosaurs to which the T. rex belongs. Paleontologists don’t know whether all these species maintained feathers for life or only kept them as juveniles.
“I like to wonder whether they looked cute and cuddly like little chicken chicks or silly and dorky like owl chicks,” Ms. Rolle said.
Noted Dr. Hoffman, “A child visiting ‘Prehistoric Forest’ may be the future paleontologist who figures it out!’ ”
In addition to “Prehistoric Forest,” another exhibit, “Dinorama: Miniatures Through the Mesozoic,” will run through April 25 in the museum’s Sprague Pavilion.
For more details, visit sbnature.org.