British Residents’ Association of Switzerland

Geneva’s Jurassic Park

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If you didn’t go it’s too late for you missed a splendid exhibition of dinosaurs that was at Geneva’s natural history museum from last September to 12 March. This year the museum is celebrating 50 years at its current address and while it is a long time, it is nothing compared to the time which has passed since dinosaurs trod our planet. BRA members decided to visit the exhibition on 21 January and met up for lunch beforehand in the building’s pleasant Scandinavian style restaurant before being greeted by roars from creatures of a long-gone age.
Several world-renowned fossils had been brought together for the first time. Some came from a remarkable collection from Wyoming in the US, unearthed by a team of Swiss paleontologists from the Saurier Museum at Aathal near Zurich. The exhibition, which is on a world tour, unfolded in three stages, revealing the latest scientific insights into dinosaurs and how they lived many, many, millions of years ago. The first stage showed how paleontologists unearthed the often enormous remains of these long- lost inhabitants. As we entered the first gallery we were greeted by the 27 metres long skeleton of the Arapahoe dinosaur which was discovered only two years ago at the Arapahoe Formation in the Denver basin of Colorado in the United States. Our party stood in awe as we gaped at the monster which towered over us.

Since starting to analyse dinosaur remains in the 19th century, man’s understanding of them has shifted from cruel, lumbering, dim beasts destined for extinction, to a much deeper understanding of what they were really like. Most scientists reckon dinosaurs originated more than 200 million years ago, pre-dating early apes, our earliest ancestors, by more than 190 million years. They have made huge leaps forward in their understanding. Research has allowed us to travel back in time and to imagine what these animals were like. Scientists now know that even the heaviest dinosaurs walked tens, even hundreds, of kilometres at a time. And some had highly developed brains. In addition, their diversity attests to biological success. And not all dinosaurs are extinct. The fossil record shows that birds are the modern descendants of feathered dinosaurs that evolved from theropod ancestors during the Jurassic Period.

Although you might have missed the dinosaur exhibition, do go and visit Geneva’s Natural History Museum as there is much well worthwhile to see, particularly if you have children or grandchildren.

Michael Type