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Science Museum displays invaluable fossils unearthed in China (with photos)

    About 200 exotic fossils of dinosaurs and other ancient animals and plants unearthed in China are now on display until November 25 at the "Soaring Dinosaurs - Chinese Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Life" exhibition at the Hong Kong Science Museum. The fossils offer clues to the evolution of the dinosaurs and shed new light on the rise of birds, mammals and flowering plants.

     The exhibition was officially opened today (May 25) by the Secretary for Home Affairs, Dr Patrick Ho Chi-ping; Deputy Director General of Publicity, Culture and Sports Department of Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in the HKSAR, Ms Chow Shanshan; Deputy Director of the Culture Department of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, Mr Liu Zhaohe; Deputy Director of Institute of Geology of Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences, Mr Geng Yuansheng; Acting Curator of Chongqing Museum of Natural History, Dr Ouyang Hui; Vice-County Magistrate of The People's Government of Lufeng County, Mr Zhang Shaowen; and Director of Leisure and Cultural Services, Mr Thomas Chow.

     Dr Ho said the exhibition was one of the major events for the celebration of the 10th Anniversary of the Establishment of the HKSAR. The exhibits on display were very precious and of great value to science research.

     "The fossils represent important milestones in the evolutionary history of the Earth. It is a rare opportunity for the people of Hong Kong to be introduced to these gems, some of which have never been seen before in Hong Kong," Dr Ho said.

     Provided by the Institute of Geology of the Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region Museum, Chongqing Museum of Natural History, Lufeng Dinosaur Museum and Changzhou Dinosaurland, the fossils on display are divided into seven topics: Fossil Excavation Site, Paleozoic Animals and Plants, Mesozoic Animals, Mesozoic Dinosaurs, Mesozoic Plants, Mesozoic Feathered Dinosaurs and Birds and Cenozoic Mammals. They range from the earliest animals that flourished in the Cambrian waters to the first placental mammal, and flowering plant to feathered dinosaurs that evolved into birds.

     Among the precious collection of fossils is the Jehol Biota unique to the province of Liaoning in northern China. During the early Cretaceous Period about 120 million years ago, the area was warm with lush vegetation around lakes and rivers. Prehistoric animals and plants flourished on this landscape until massive volcanic eruptions took place. Dinosaurs with feathers and ancients birds were among the victims of the catastrophe. Without any warning and before they could take wing, the animals were buried alive in a layer of fine volcanic ash. Since the discovery of feathered dinosaurs in Liaoning in the early nineties, the exotic finds have commanded international attention and have become a focus of scientific research.

     The Chengjiang Biota discovered in Chengjiang County, Yunnan Province, another important collection of fossils, is regarded as one of the most significant paleontological discoveries of the 20th century. It comprises an extremely diverse fauna that dates back to the Late Cambrian approximately 515 to 520 million years ago. Never before seen in Hong Kong, the fossils of the Jinfengopteryx elegans and Microraptor gui which are the precursors of modern birds, the nine-metre-tall Nuoerosaurus chaganensis found in the Gobi Desert, and the nine-metre-long Mammuthus sungari which is one of the largest kinds of mammoths ever discovered, are also on display in the exhibition.

     Life has been flourishing on Earth for the last 3.8 billion years. However, the vast majority of species were wiped out after several mass extinction events. Prevailing for 160 millions years on the planet, dinosaurs went into extinction by the Late Mesozoic about 65 million years ago. Today, it is believed that studying the causes of extinction of dinosaurs has great implications. The incessant demand of natural resources, having stemmed from the quest for materialistic and opulent lifestyles, is destroying the fragile Earth at an unprecedented rate. The extinction of dinosaurs is a doomsday warning. The exhibition hopes to remind people to protect nature and the ecology of the planet. Otherwise, people may precipitate another mass extinction event.

     To complement the exhibition, the Science Museum will organise a series of extension activities including the "Prehistoric Giants Theatre" during the exhibition period. The theatre will feature a series of documentaries on dinosaurs and ancient creatures including "Sky Monster" and "SuperCroc'l", and six episodes of the "Walking with Dinosaurs" series. For details, please call 2732 3223 to contact the Development Section of the Science Museum.

     In support of the exhibition, a fully illustrated catalogue will be published and available at the bookshop of the Science Museum.

     The Science Museum is located at 2 Science Museum Road, Tsim Sha Tsui East, Kowloon. It is open from 1pm to 9pm from Monday to Friday and from 10am to 9pm on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays. It is closed on Thursdays (except public holidays). Admission is $45, with a half-price concession applicable to full-time students, people with disabilities and senior citizens aged 60 or above. No free admission on Wednesdays. Tickets are now available for advance booking up to one week at the URBTIX outlets and Science Museum. To maxmise viewing enjoyment, visitors will be admitted at four time slots during weekdays: 1pm to 3pm, 3pm to 5pm, 5pm to 7pm and 7pm to 9pm. For Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays, there will be an added time slot of 10am to 1pm.

     For enquiries, call 2732 3232 or visit the Science Museum's website at for further information.

Ends/Friday, May 25, 2007
Issued at HKT 17:46


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