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Saber-tooth Cat

A look back in time at 'The Great Russian Dinosaurs'

Natural History Museum: The Great Russian Dinosaurs
Los Angeles
Through May 2

(CNN) -- The great dinosaurs that once roamed our planet died out millions of years ago, but interest in them lives on and continues to grow.

Some of the interest, experts say, comes from the simple idea that these magnificent creatures once roamed the same places we now call home. Other interest comes from the fact that these magnificent creatures, which lived for millions of years, finally died out.

"It's an ever-present reminder of the transience of any give species," says Dr. J.D. Stewart, assistant curator of vertebrate paleontology at Natural History Museum in Los Angeles. "I think people are attracted to any animals that are no longer represented on the Earth."

The museum is now offering a look back in time with "The Great Russian Dinosaurs," a collection of fossil remains of animal life that once roamed what is now Russia and Mongolia from 70 to 290 million years ago. This includes dinosaurs, as well as mammal-like reptiles that lived and died out millions of years before the dinosaurs.

Included in the exhibit: a fully assembled, 15-foot-tall skeleton of Tarbosaurus, a cousin to the ever-popular T-rex; the remains of a Velociraptor, the dino of "Jurassic Park" fame; the moose-like Estemmenosuchus; and "mountain dinosaurs" from Mongolia that lived in altitudes of 6,500 feet.

The collection comes from Moscow's Paleontological Institute and Museum.

Stewart says the collection offers a glimpse at two separate times in our planet's history that were each dominated by different creatures, both ending with a catastrophic extinction-level event. The dinosaurs, as most believe, were killed off by a comet or asteroid that hit the Earth; scientists are still debating what killed off most of the mammal-like creatures before them.

Stewart says he wants visitors to walk away with "some feeling for the major changes in life on Earth, that there were things before the dinosaurs that were related to you and me."

The Natural History Museum will offer "The Great Russian Dinosaurs" through May 2, 1999. Museum admission is $8 for adults, $5.50 for students and seniors, and $2 for ages 5-12. (213) 763-DINO.

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