GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Visitors can discover what Earth was like before the arrival of dinosaurs and mammals in the Florida Museum of Natural History’s newest exhibit “Permian Monsters: Life Before the Dinosaurs,” opening Sept. 29.
The museum will host a free, fun-for-all-ages opening day celebration from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. with hands-on activities, fossil displays and a dig pit. Guests are invited to bring objects for identification and speak with members of Florida fossil clubs to learn what specimens can be found around the state as an early celebration of National Fossil Day. Opening-day visitors will also have the opportunity to meet paleontologists and geologists who work every day to uncover the secrets these ancient remains reveal about past life on Earth.
“When most people think about mass extinctions, they think about the dinosaurs disappearing, or more recent extinctions like mammoths and mastodons,” said Julie Waters, Florida Museum exhibit coordinator. “But the end-of-Permian extinction was vastly more devastating – something almost wiped out all life on Earth, and that ‘something’ is one of the great mysteries of paleontology.”
The exhibit uses interactive models and real fossils to educate guests about this period. Life-size animatronic figures of seven different creatures along with 12 illustrations by award-winning paleo-artist Julius Csotonyi bring the Permian Period to life and depict the biodiversity of the time. Guests will also have the opportunity to step into the shoes of a paleontologist to sift through four dig pits and interact with fossil casts and skeletons. The exhibit also features lifelike sculptures and touch-screen games to educate and quiz visitors.
The Permian extinction event occurred more than 250 million years ago and is the largest mass extinction in Earth’s history. It also signaled the end of the Permian Period. Only 10 percent of plants and animals survived, which is why so little is known about this period. The exhibit uses skeletons, sculptures and replicas to educate visitors about these creatures and explore how they might have survived.
The Permian Period saw the emergence of new creatures and changes to existing ecosystems. Reptiles became the dominant land animal for the first time and the number of amphibians fell. This era also saw the rise of smaller warm-blooded reptiles that would later become mammals.
Admission to “Permian Monsters” is $8 for adults; $7 for Florida residents, seniors and college students; $5.50 for ages 3-17 and free to museum members and UF students with a valid Gator 1 card. The Florida Museum will display the exhibit through May 5, 2019.
This exhibit was created by Gondwana Studios and sponsored in part by contributions from Visit Gainesville/Alachua County, University of Florida Student Government and the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs.
For more information, visit www.floridamuseum.ufl.edu/exhibits/permian or call 352-846-2000.