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The daspletosaurus stood 30 feet tall and his toothy expression seemed to suggest unwholesome intentions. But it was precisely those dozens of voracious teeth , 2-year-old Landon Van Houten explained, that made him cool.
“He bites. And he’s big,” Landon explained to the uncomprehending adults gathered around him. Finally, in frustration, he resorted to performance art, thrusting his arms stiffly outward as he marched forward in a lumbering, stiff-legged lurch that was somewhere between the gaits of Godzilla and Frankenstein.
His parents nodded in acquiescence if not exactly approval. “Anything with a dinosaur, he’s nuts for,” said his mother Lynn. “That’s why we brought him.”
Landon and his brother Kenneth Jr., who hail from the dinosaur-free territory of Plantation, were among several thousand kids who were at Flamingo Gardens, 3750 S. Flamingo. Rd in Davie, on Sunday to get a look at the Lost World of Dinosaurs, an exhibition of 25 life-size fiberglass models of the creatures.
The Missouri-based exhibition, which continues through Sept. 4, includes a 38-foot allosaurus who has just finished lunch (operative clue: that gnawed brontosaurus bone behind her) and a bunch of tiny compsognathuses who look cute as little prehistoric buttons unless you watched “The Lost World: Jurassic” and saw what they did to that hunter.
Among the most popular with the kids Sunday was the hypsibema mom who is guarding a pile of dinosaur eggs, one of which is cracked open. The broken egg has attracted a family of small Flamingo Gardens lizards, who pop in and out without warning, to squeals of delight of the kids and nervous hey-wait-a-second looks from their parents. “It really can look like a baby dinosaur is hatching,” conceded Cori Glick, the park’s event coordinator.
The birth of a baby hypsibema, it should be noted, was not really part of the plan. The hypsibema is included mainly because it’s the state dinosaur of Missouri, the home of Lost World founder Guy Darrough. And, yes, you just read the words “state dinosaur.” And no, Florida doesn’t have one — because we didn’t have any dinosaurs.
“Florida was mostly underwater during the age of dinosaurs,” said Jon Axler, the exhibit curator. “A lot of people get kind of bummed out when I tell them that, but it’s the truth.”
The kids, however, seemed to recover quickly, and spirited arguments about anthropology and archaeology could be heard through Flamingo Gardens. “There are no unicorns!” one 10-year-old girl lectured her sister. “Someone a long time ago just saw a white horse and got that idea.”
Her 6-year-old sister wasn’t buying it. “What about dragons?”
“Dragons aren’t real! I’m talking about things that are real! Monkeys are real!”
A grandmother’s motion to adjourn the discussion and head for the bouncy house was grudgingly accepted, and the debate went unresolved.
The bouncy house, though popular, was a distant second to a dinosaur named Horacio from Miami Beach. Horacio, who strictly speaking is not actually a dinosaur but a guy named Pablo Airaudo inside a tyrannosaus rex costume
Unlike the dinosaur models, Horacio actually walked around, making the occasional predatory lunge at little braggart boys who said his teeth were fake, a hypothesis that most of them turned out to be unwilling to pursue at close range. Little girls, at least some of them, were more inclined to think they’d glimpsed a kind heart behind the teeth.
“I wasn’t scared,” said 4-year-old Aida of Hallandale Beach, who was so excited by having her photo taken with Horacio that she couldn’t remember her last name. “I want my own dinosaur. I would name him Misha. And I could go on walks with him, and make drawings, and then go on more walks.”
What: Lost World of Dinosaurs
When: 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. through Sept. 4
Cost: $19.95 for 12 and over, $12.95 for ages 3-11, free for 2 and under
Where: Flamingo Gardens, 3750 S. Flamingo Rd., Davie, FL 33330-1614
Phone: 954- 473-2955