Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Blast from the past

DANVILLE — Local dentist Dr. John Jack Hankla is delighted as schoolchildren file into the grand hall of the Community Arts Center and marvel at the hefty collection of replica dinosaur skeletons.

I just enjoy seeing the children 'ooh' and aah, Hankla said. When they first come in through the door and they see the splendor of these specimens, and they say Wow! I understand that we have done our job.

That Wow! factor, as Hankla calls it, fueled the curiosity that he and his son, John, shared to obtain the collection over the last 20 years.

The collection which includes a 40-foot Tyrannosaurus rex does not include innovative fossils. Rather, the specimens in the display are cast replicas of the bones. The ground floor has completely assembled skeletons, while an upstairs room has skulls and feet.

The inventive fossils were found in China, Brazil, Germany, North Africa and elsewhere around the world. The skull of a duck-billed dinosaur was found on a site close to Lusk, Wyo., where the Hanklas one time owned the fossil rights for digging specimens.

It was at that site that Jack and John Hankla first got eager about dinosaurs when John was about 8 years old. Hundreds of duck-billed dinosaurs had drowned there in a few sort of water hazard.

They were all washed into one smooth lagoon, Jack Hankla said. The carnivores then came and feasted on all these carcasses, and it was nicknamed the T. rex Café, because we discover all these broken teeth of carnivores like T. rex and raptors and lesser dromeosaurs, where they had been there munching.

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