The first encounter with Victoria the Tyrannosaurus rex — the Arizona Science Center’s latest special attraction — lets visitors know there’s more to this experience than simply gazing at a big skeleton.
Before the bones are revealed, you’ll watch a 3-minute video that introduces the dinosaur that inspired the exhibit, which runs through May 25. You’ll wonder about how Victoria lived, how she died and what happened to her in the 66 million years since she walked the Earth.
Once inside, the first thing you’ll see is the skeleton set up in an ambush predator pose that gives a sense of just how imposing Victoria was in life.
And you can interact with the exhibit to see the world through Victoria’s eyes, smell it through her nose and even create your own T. rex and watch it come to life.
Arizona Science Center chief curiosity officer Sari Custer said the center is thrilled to host the first stop on Victoria’s premiere tour.
“We’re so excited to bring such a striking, unique example of a T. rex to Phoenix,” Custer said. “We’ve been told people want more dinosaurs, so we’re bringing the dinosaurs.”
There are a lot of bones
The Victoria skeleton, discovered near Faith, South Dakota, in 2013, has been described as the second most complete T. rex skeleton ever discovered.
Heinrich Mallison, lead paleontologist on the Victoria project, doesn’t like talking about the “completeness” of the skeleton, though.
He said that if, for example, most of the bones uncovered had been in the tail of the animal or had been flattened or distorted after millions of years, the number of bones wouldn’t have yielded much new information.
The 199 fossilized bones that make up Victoria include portions of the skull, rib cage, limbs and vertebrae that tell a story.
“We have a hell of a lot of her,” Mallison said. “And what we have is in good shape.”
The bones have been augmented by 3D-printed material that allows the presentation of a complete skeleton of a dinosaur that is about 40 feet long and stands about 12 feet tall.
Kids can explore Victoria’s world
While looking at the skeleton is impressive, the interactive elements of the exhibit will spark the imagination, especially for kids. The entertainment company IMG produced it with a slick, engaging presentation.
Displays, placed at kid-friendly heights, let visitors smell things (water, the forest, prey animals) and then compare that sensation to the way Victoria would have experienced those things.
You can custom-design a holographic T. rex based on the most current understanding of what the animals looked like, then see it released into the environment on a big screen.
And you can touch approximations of what the dinosaurs’ skin, teeth and feathers might have felt like.
The final piece of the exhibit is a walk-through diorama that takes you through several stages of Victoria’s life. One scene depicts the battle with another T. rex that is the likely cause of the wounds that may have resulted in her death. This scene isn’t particularly graphic or bloody, but it does involve two dinosaurs fighting.
5 things to know about Victoria
- Victoria hatched about 66 million years ago during the Cretaceous Period.
- She is believed to have been a sub-adult, 18 to 25 years old. She would have reached reproductive age but not her full growth potential.
- It’s estimated that she would have grown to 14 feet tall. Her rib cage indicates that she was especially bulky, weighing perhaps 10.5 tons.
- Victoria’s unusually complete skull is well preserved and includes several fragile palate bones that are rarely found intact.
- A possible cause of her death was a massive mouth infection caused by a severe bite on the lower jaw inflicted by another T. rex.
Victoria the T. rex
When: Through May 25. Museum hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily.
Where: Arizona Science Center, 600 E. Washington St., Phoenix.
Tickets: $11.95 (free for age 2 and younger) in addition to the general admission fee: $18 ($13 for ages 3-17) online in advance and $19.95/$14.95 at the door.
Details: 602-716-2000, azscience.org/victoria.