Purchase photos

Exhibit too 'cool'

12/11/2013

By MATTHEW KENWRIGHT

mkenwright@dailynews.net

Mammals that preyed together will stay together in a new exhibit opening Saturday at Sternberg Museum of Natural History in Hays.

Long-extinct carnivores and herbivores return for the "Titans of the Ice Age: When Big was Cool." The skeletons and bone casts of a saber-toothed cat, a mammoth, a 9-foot bear, a lion, a bison, a beaver and dire wolf are on display.

The species that once roamed Kansas are placed next to their modern-day descendants to show the differences in their size and characteristics. All of the animals lived during the Pleistocene Epoch, also known as the Ice Age.

Laura Wilson, curator of paleontology, said Kansas is known for marine fossils, but its contributions to the study of ancient animals go beyond the sea. The land dwellers died 10,000 years ago.

"Either the large animals were being killed off selectively by humans, or there was a climate change and a landscape change that the food wasn't there to support the larger size anymore," Wilson said.

Although the science surrounding the animals' rise and fall might be too complicated for young children to grasp, the exhibit still offers lessons.

"Things change when the environment changes," she said. "When things get cold, we get big animals. When they get warm, those animals go away."

There is a debate within the scientific community about cloning animals of past eras because they possibly could survive in today's ecosystem. However, there is an appeal in making discoveries about bygone times.

"It'd be interesting, but ... they went extinct. They had their chance," she said.

Members can attend a guided tour of the new addition and enjoy refreshments Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon, and the public can enter at noon. Anyone can arrive at 10 a.m. and register for a membership.

The display runs for at least a year and will transition to evolving grasslands and other exhibits in future years. The museum will host fundraisers to host the other exhibits.