Emerson Dinoroarus at the Saint Louis Zoo
By: Paul Langdon
Visitors at the Saint Louis Zoo are in for a blast from the past! The Emerson Dinoroarus attraction demonstrates the diversity of animals from long before humans walked the earth, brought to life through animatronics paired with modern paleontological discoveries. There’s a total of 16 different groupings of animatronic and stationary dinosaurs, ranging from 1 to 18 feet tall. Some familiar creatures like the ferocious Tyrannosaurus rex and long-neck Brachiosaurus tower over guests, while some lesser-known ancient animals like the duck-billed Parasaurolophus and enormous pterosaur Quetzalcoatlus look after their newborn babies, still confined to their nests.
The sights of these terrific creatures might seem otherworldly at first, but onlookers will quickly recognize certain traits apparent in these ancient animals, for good reason. Dinosaurs are still around in the forms of modern birds, and Emerson Dinoroarus does an excellent job of highlighting the relations between species from 65 million years ago and today.
But this exhibit isn’t limited to just exploring dinosaurs. “We do have some other living animals here. We have Tasmanian devils, otters, and guineafowl, which will be roaming around. We wanted to get people to understand that there were other animals besides dinosaurs around in the Mesozoic,” explains Edward Spevak, Ph.D., Curator of Invertebrates at the Saint Louis Zoo. “For example, the Tasmanian devil is about the same size as an extinct mammal called Repenomamus and it had a similar lifestyle. So, when you look at a Tasmanian devil, you’re really also looking at something about the size of the largest mammal that existed with the dinosaurs.”
This exhibit also displays marine life that has existed for millions of years. “In saltwater we have sponges, corals, and jellyfish, which actually predate the dinosaurs. They were around before the dinosaurs and are still around today, but unfortunately just like our extant dinosaurs, birds, and other animals, they’re also disappearing in part due to climate change.”
One aspect of examining extinct lifeforms that might seem a little grim, but is certainly of paramount importance, is understanding their extinction. Why did Dinosaurs go extinct? How did it happen? And what should we learn from it? As Dr. Spevak noted, the descendants of dinosaurs that managed to survive and adapt over the millennia are now facing similar threats as the ones that drove the ancient species, showcased in this exhibit, to extinction.
“We know that dinosaurs went extinct some 65 million years ago,” explains Dr. Spevak. “But how did they go extinct? What were the changes in the environment? And those changes in the environment are the same ones that are unfortunately occurring today. So yes, there was a large asteroid that impacted the earth, but the result of that asteroid caused climate change. Climate change is one of the biggest concerns that we have right now, it affected the dinosaurs in their extinction, but it’s also now affecting animals all across the planet. We know how some of those dinosaurs, like birds, survived. But unfortunately, now due to habitat change, overhunting, and also the overall climate change we are losing the extant dinosaurs and all the other animals that go with them.”
The situation zoologists now find themselves in isn’t particularly optimistic. Currently, approximately 36 percent of the animals at the Saint Louis Zoo are either threatened or endangered in the wild, and that number shows no sign of going down on its own. While the Saint Louis Zoo offers many fun and educational activities for their visitors, their greatest service to the world at large surely comes in the form of their conservation efforts. They have established the WildCare Institute, which is dedicated to creating a sustainable future for wildlife and humans across the globe, and the Saint Louis Zoo Institute for Conservation Medicine, which takes a holistic approach to wildlife conservation, public health, and sustainable ecosystems. To learn more about the Saint Louis Zoo’s conservation efforts, and how you can also help to protect wildlife, please visit www.stlzoo.org/conservation.
And for more details and ticket information for Emerson Dinoroarus, please visit www.stlzoo.org/visit/thingstoseeanddo/discoverycorner/dinoroarus. This exhibit will remain open through October 31, 2021.