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Mote travels back in time with new exhibit

Savage Ancient Seas will be open through May 31.

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  • | 3:03 p.m. March 2, 2020
  • Sarasota
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It’s time to travel back in time -- 80 million years to be exact -- to the Savage Ancient Seas at Mote Marine Aquarium.

The new temporary exhibit, created by Triebold Paleontology Inc, takes a look at ancient marine animals that lived during the late Cretaceous period. 

Savage Ancient Seas begins outside with a timeline walkway that informs guests they are now entering “Mote’s Time Machine.” 

The walkway begins with 250,000 years ago in the Pleistocene Epoch period when homo sapiens evolved in Africa and ends 80 million years prior in the late Cretaceous period as it welcomes guests to the Savage Ancient Seas.

The bow-bearer knob-lizard bites down on the stranger leatherback turtle.
The bow-bearer knob-lizard bites down on the stranger leatherback turtle.

Once inside, guests are met with giant hanging skeletons that were replicated from fossils found in the American Midwest. 

“The fossils are from a region called the western interior Seaway, which believe or not, is when Kansas, Wyoming and that area were all underwater,” said Stephannie Kettle, spokesperson for Mote. “That's where these animals come from is this region, especially Kansas.”

A few of those animals are ancestors to animals that are alive today.

The Mighty Ruling Turtle looks pretty similar to the sea turtles of today at first glance, but with one catch, the flipper span of the Mighty Ruling Turtle could stretch from 15-17 feet compared to the 9 foot flipper span on a Leatherback turtle. 

Kettle said the turtle is most closely related to the Leatherback sea turtle with a similar diet of jellyfish and both turtles have a rubber-like shell. 

“This skeleton especially is so cool for guests to connect an ancient several million year old animal with the modern ones we have today,” Kettle said. “Our turtles almost look just like this but just not to that scale.”

Although the savage seas creatures were alive at the same time as dinosaurs, the closest animal to a dinosaur is the flightless bird named the Hesperornis Regalis or the regal western bird, which had teeth and swam hundreds of miles from the coast in search of food. 

The Mighty Ruling Turtle has a 17-foot flipper span.
The Mighty Ruling Turtle has a 17-foot flipper span.

Made to be interactive, the self guided exhibit features interactive kiosks where aquarium goers can flip through slides on everything from late Cretaceous period birds to “who ate who.”

Each plaque explaining its respective skeleton has a QR code. Guests can scan the code with any QR app on their smartphone for more information on each animal. Free WiFi is available for guests to connect while in the exhibit.

The plaque also shows where the sea animal lived, what it ate and how large it was compared to a human. 

“If you come and see this exhibit, then we have four living animals with ancestors from this time,” Kettle said. “Sharks, sea turtles, horseshoe crabs and alligators.So when you go and see those animals living and breathing those are our living dinosaurs.”

Paid for in part by Sarasota County Tourist Development Tax revenues, the exhibit is open to the public through May 3. Admission to the exhibit is included with a general admission ticket.


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