Inside Singapore's impressive natural history museum

Nicholas Walton, for CNNUpdated 15th July 2015
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(CNN) — Prince, Apollonia and Twinky roamed our planet 150 million years ago.
Nowadays, the skeletons of these three long-necked diplodocus dinosaurs are the star attraction of Singapore's new Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum.
Everyone knows that dinosaurs were big, but these three almost complete sauropod fossils are a reminder of just how enormous these lizards were.
Discovered at a Wyoming quarry in the United States in the last decade, "Prince" is 25 meters long from tip to toe. The largest of the trio, he arrived in 27 huge customized crates that were shipped from Utah.
Apollonia is three meters shorter and Twinky -- a mere baby -- is 11 meters long, rearing up on its hind legs as though munching on something delicious in a tree.

Awe-inspiring exterior

In a city accustomed to world-class museums and ground-breaking architecture, this $35 million museum is very much the new luminary of Singapore's cultural scene.
Designed by Singaporean architect Mok Wei Wei, the building itself looks nothing like your stereotypical natural history museum.
Shunning all things old fashioned, this contemporary monolith partly looks like a giant seven-story block of solid granite.
One corner of the block appears to have been hacked off, revealing a succession of terracotta colored balconies -- all dripping with native Singaporean plants.

Creepy crawlies and one massive croc

Singapore's Natural History Museum mammal zone is eerie but educational.
Inside, the spectacular sights are not just focused on the distant past.
The museum also aims to build an appreciation for Southeast Asia's wildlife.
Some of it is flourishing. Some of it is under threat and could very well go the way of the diplodocus.
Visitors can come face-to-face with an estuarine crocodile -- the largest in the world and a creature that has returned to the waters around Singapore.
Other displays include orangutans, pangolins (otherwise known as scaly anteaters), tigers and wild boars.
There are smaller animals too, including enough spiders to make anybody's skin crawl.
Dozens of the butterfly species that flutter around this tropical corner of Asia are also on display, as well as the gargantuan Atlas moth.
The museum also showcases an astonishing variety of crabs -- from the Japanese spider crab (almost four yards long from claw to claw) to the coral spider crab (less than a tenth of an inch in size).
There's even a reminder not to be seduced by the beautiful colors of the mosaic reef crab -- its mottled pink shell seems innocent enough but contains enough poison to kill 40,000 mice.

Answers to all your quirky questions

The narwhal tusk is the tall spear-like object at the center of this display.
At the core of all that flash, the Singapore Natural History Museum makes a point of educating its visitors.
There are displays that look at how different animals adapt to glide or fly between trees.
Ever wonder how an elephant's legs can support its enormous weight? They've got that answer, too.
One of the more curious exhibits features an elegant spiral tusk from a narwhal, an Arctic whale species that's commonly called the "unicorn of the sea."
This particular three-meter-long tusk was presented to a Singaporean businessman called "Whampoa" by the Russian government in the 1860s.
His family hid it during WWII and entrusted it to the museum just last year.
There are some 2,000 creatures on display in the museum.
But in total, the museum houses one million plant and animal specimens, the vast majority carefully labeled and tucked away in drawers or floating in jars on the building's upper floors.
Selfie sticks are strictly banned. The museum says it wants its visitors to have a "serene experience, much like taking a walk in a lush forest."
Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum. 2 Conservatory Drive, Singapore; +65 6601 3333; open Tuesday to Sunday, 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; entrance fee $21($16 for Singaporean residents), concessions $13 ($9), children under 3 Free.
Patrons are encouraged to buy tickets in advance through the Sistic ticketing site. At busy times tickets are valid for 90 minutes only.
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