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“Dreaming of a Tropical South Dakota?” Topic for Jan. 12 Family Fun Saturday at Cultural Heritage Center

Visitors to Family Fun Saturday on Jan 12 at the Cultural Heritage Center in Pierre can create their own mini tropical South Dakota terrarium with sand, small dinosaurs and greenery.

The event runs from 10-11:30 a.m. CST. All supplies are provided, and children must be accompanied by an adult. Information about Mesozoic South Dakota will be shared by PowerPoint in the Education Room. The PowerPoint will run on a continuous loop throughout the event. Admission to the museum galleries is also free during event hours.

Imagine a South Dakota of lush tropical forests, sandy beaches and warm seas. Just watch out for the Tyrannosaurus Rex roaming those forests and fierce crocodile-like mosasaurs swimming in those seas! Welcome to the Mesozoic Era South Dakota of 150 to 66 million years ago.

“Dreaming about a warm, tropical South Dakota can make the chill of January easier to bear,” said Jay Smith, museum director. “Making a terrarium complete with a dinosaur or two is a fun way to recall a time from way back in South Dakota’s past.”

During the Mesozoic Era, part of South Dakota was covered by an inland sea and had coastal forest habitat along with broad flood plains and sandy-bottomed stream shores. The climate was warmer and wetter than it is today. Hot and dry in the early Mesozoic, rainfall increased, and oceans rose during the middle of the era. Lush rain forest vegetation covered much of the earth’s surface. Flowering plants evolved, and dinosaurs like Tyrannosaurus Rex and Triceratops roamed South Dakota. Triceratops was named South Dakota’s state fossil in 1988.

The Mesozoic seas teemed with large marine reptiles and prehistoric fish. Mosasaurs, plesiosaurs and giant sea turtles competed for food with squid-like ammonites and a variety of prehistoric sharks. Paddlefish evolved in the late Mesozoic era and still swim in the Missouri River today.

Mosasaurs resembled crocodiles with flippers and could reach 32 feet in length. These supreme carnivores ruled the late Mesozoic seas. The stomach contents of one fossil specimen found in South Dakota contained the remains of fish, shark, diving bird and another mosasaur. Mosasaurs are the most commonly preserved marine reptile found in the state.

The museum is open from 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. CST Monday through Saturday, and 1-4:30 p.m. on Sundays and most holidays. Call 605-773-3458 for more information about exhibits, special events and upcoming activities.

About the South Dakota State Historical Society
The South Dakota State Historical Society is a division of the Department of Education. The State Historical Society, an Affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, is headquartered at the South Dakota Cultural Heritage Center in Pierre. The center houses the society’s world-class museum, the archives, and the historic preservation, publishing and administrative/development offices. Call 605-773-3458 or visit for more information. The society also has an archaeology office in Rapid City; call 605-394-1936 for more information.

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